The likelihood is, it won?t happen.
But after 27 games, the Detroit Pistons are on a pace to tie or break the Chicago Bulls 72-10 record, set during their championship season of 1996. In fact, they have the same record the Bulls had on the same date in ?96: 24-3.
Here?s where it gets tough: at this point in their season, the Bulls took off on an 18-game win streak, running their record to 41-3. How ridiculous is that? The Bulls went 14-0 in January, a month when even the best teams endure mini-slumps and lapses in concentration. Of their 18 wins, only two were decided by 10 points or less. The Pistons are dominant, but can they be that dominant?
While they don?t have a Michael Jordan, they have more offensive firepower this year than when they won the championship in 2003, and their team defense is as good, if not better, than the ?96 Bulls. Four Pistons are averaging in double figures, one, Richard Hamilton (21.5) is having a career year, and the only player averaging in single-digits, Ben Wallace, happens to be the most fearsome defender in the league.
To break the Bulls record and become the winningest team in NBA history, the Pistons have to go 49-6 the rest of the way, which would give them an unconscious 73-9 record. Pipe dream, or real possibility? Assuming they can avoid major injuries and home court losses to teams who have no business beating them, here are seven tough remaining games that could stand in the Pistons way of regular-season immortality:
January 12, @San Antonio: The Spurs will be hungry for revenge after the 85-70 drubbing they took on Christmas Day in Detroit. Manu Ginobili should be back for this one, and the Spurs want to send a message that they, and not the Pistons, are the team to be reckoned with in June.
January 31, @ New Jersey: It?s taken some time, but the high-flying Nets of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson are starting to get their act together. They?ve won seven in a row, and could be one of the elite teams in the East by the time the Pistons visit. The Nets will be anxious to get into the Pistons heads come playoff time, and if they get running at home, look out.
February 4, @Indiana: This will be the Pistons fourth game in five nights, against a team that will be pumped to beat them, whether Ron Artest is still a Pacer or not. It?s the first meeting of the season between these two teams, and The Brawl should be behind them. Even without Artest, expect the tight-knit Pacers to play an emotional game that the weary Pistons may be hard-pressed to match.
February 12, @Miami: The Heat have lost three in a row to Detroit dating back to last year?s Eastern Conference finals, when they blew a 3-2 series lead with a hobbled Dwayne Wade. They need to prove they can beat these guys, and a nationally televised game on their home floor should provide all the motivation.
February 27, @Cleveland: This will be the second half of a home-and-home with the Cavs, and once again, the fourth game in five nights for the Pistons. Led by LeBron and Larry Hughes, the Cavs are anxious to prove they can play with an elite team, and have the youth and talent to catch the Pistons on an off-night.
March 4, @L.A. Lakers: West Coast trips are always tricky, and this will be the Pistons third game in four nights, after stops in Denver and Seattle. The Lakers have been very beatable at home this season, but if the Pistons are dragging, and Kobe Bryant catches fire, they could be primed for an upset.
April 2, Phoenix @Detroit: Amare Stoudemire could be back for this one, and the Pistons will have their hands full with Steve Nash and an opportunistic defense that has tightened in Stoudemire?s absence. The Suns are a solid road team and should be making their own playoff stretch run about this time.