Answering a few questions after the top-seeded Detroit Pistons gave us a preview of a possible first-round matchup with a 104-99 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday . . .
Seed of wisdom takes root
How are the Pistons looking?
I think they're a better team today than on this same day last year. Pistons coach Flip Saunders has done a better job in utilizing the bench this season. There's more of his signatures and stamps on this team. There was some obvious headbutting with Ben Wallace last year. With two polarizing figures, Wallace was more defense-oriented, with Flip looking for offense.
They've clinched the East's best mark with this win. But are they conference's best?
Right now they're the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. They would by far cause the more problems for the three leading West candidates (Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix) than any other team from the East because they can take things away from those three.
It starts with Pistons mainstay Chauncey Billups (28 points, eight assists). How do you see his game?
As great as Steve Nash in Phoenix's system, Billups is every bit as effective for what Detroit wants to do. For Detroit's style, there's not a better guard in the game for this team. He makes sure he gets the other guys going -- when you make sure you involve them, they play better. Billups does that, and his guys don't give up on plays, always expecting to get the basketball. On Wednesday, he lead his team in scoring with 28 points, but only took 13 shots. That's excellent.
In his homecoming, ex-Piston Darko Milicic got a nice round of boos from the Auburn Hills faithful. How's he looking?
I think he can be a good player. I don't want to say he'll be great, but I think he can have an impact -- you could see a development similar to Eddy Curry, who also had high expectations coming out. The Darko expectations will be lowered, his ceiling not high as some thought on draft night.
Grant Hill had 22 points, his highest total against his former team, which he last played for in 2000.
They'll need more of what they got from him tonight. He has more good years in him, depending on where he wants to play.
At this point, it seems Dwight Howard giveth and he taketh away.
He had a horrible night shooting from the field (3-for-12) and from the free-throw line (6-for-16). But he still got 16 rebounds, which will carry him while he continues to develop. One common trait of all great big men is that they were great rebounders relative to their era. When I look at a big, I look at the ability to rebound.
What can Orlando take away from a possible first-round series with Detroit, besides broom marks?
There's lots of lessons to be learned for a young team making its first playoff appearance, not the least of which is valuing possessions and the importance of making free throws. When the game gets to the highest level, a lot of times it's the little things that make the difference. That's what Orlando can take from facing Detroit.
Watch ESPN analyst Greg Anthony during Friday's KIA NBA Shootaround (ESPN, 7:30 ET) before Pacers-Heat (8 ET) and Lakers-Suns (10:30 ET). Questions above posed by ESPN.com editor Andrew Ayres.
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Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace talks with former teammate Darko Milicic during Wednesday's game at The Palace.
Shaquille O'Neal's streak of consecutive seasons with 20.0 PPG to start a career will no doubt come to an end unless he goes absolutely nuts in the final three games of the season. O'Neal, who missed Wednesday's game because of his grandfather's funeral, needs 165 points in the final three games to pull to an even 20.0 PPG on the season. That would be an average of 55.0 PPG.
O'Neal will have to settle for the second longest streak of all time. Here's the most consecutive seasons with 20-plus PPG to start a career:
-- Michael E. Jackson, ESPN Research
Marcus Camby blocked seven shots for the second consecutive game on Wednesday. It's the second time this season that the Sultan of Swat has blocked at least seven shots in back-to-back games; he also did it in December. The last player other than Camby to do that was Andrei Kirilenko in December 2004. The last player with two such streaks in the same season was Camby himself, for the Raptors in 1997-98.
Nuggets clinch playoff berth in Utah
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
Adrian Dantley grins during ceremonies hoisting his No. 4 to the Jazz rafters. Dantley played for the Jazz from 1979 -- their first season in Utah -- through 1986. His Jazz scoring average of 29.6 points and shooting percentage of 56.2 both top all Jazz players.
Quote of the Day:
-- Andrew Ayres
Raptors assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini, former GM of the Euroleague team Benetton, shares his perspection on the NBA, the draft and college basketball:
Shi Chi: Chad Ford said he'd take Kevin Durant over Greg Oden. all things being equal (team needs a C and SF/PF) who would you take?
David Thorpe: KD today, KD tomorrow.
SprungOnSports (Long Island): Is it just me, or is Tyrus Thomas the second coming of Stromile Swift?
David Thorpe: Just you. Plays with far more passion and purpose.
Tomas (Tel Aviv): What is the ideal angle of the ball on its way up on a jump shot? We keep hearing about shots that are too flat or too high -- please settle it once and for all.
David Thorpe: Depends on your size, and the distance of your shot. Normally between 45 and 51 degrees, I'd say.
Please leave my Wizards alone. They were an East power before everyone and their sister went down with an injury. I am adding my name to the petition to shorten the season. Anyway, let us rest in peace, no more 'Everybody beats the Wiz' please.
The Knicks are accusing the Bulls of running up the score and Steve Francis is making threatening comments. Didn't these guys incite a brawl after another blowout loss? My advice to Isiah Thomas and the Knicks is stop giving huge contracts to underachievers and maybe you won't get blown out all the time.
Golden State clinching against Dallas will be a statement? Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, and Erick Dampier might not even play. How would that be a statement?