• There are six games on the NBA schedule for Saturday and last night we saw a huge upset as the Celtics took down the Warriors on their home floor. With less than two weeks left in the regular season, each day has the potential for great basketball and we here at Hoop Ball want to help guide you to the games you don’t want to miss.

    The Honorable Mentions: The Heat go up against the Blazers and the Raptors look to take down the Spurs.

    Now for the ‘must watch’ game of the night.

    Detroit Pistons vs. Chicago Bulls

    Tip Time: 8 pm (est)

    Where: United Center, Chicago, IL

    Player Matchup: Andre Drummond and Pau Gasol

    The Bulls have shown resilience as they have not given up on their playoff hopes. It was just a few days ago that we were talking about how the Bulls have fallen off. Now, Chicago trails the seventh-seeded Pistons by 1.5 games and they’re just one game behind the eighth-seeded Pacers.

    “We played with low energy,” Nikola Mirotic said. “Basically when they got a lead we gave up. Look at the difference today. They got a lead 14 points; we don’t give up, we fight. We played much better defense in the fourth quarter; we find some hot guys, Jimmy (Butler) and E’Twaun (Moore) in the fourth quarter, and that is how we should play because we know every game is important right now. Sometimes you need to find differently how to win the games; now I am seeing much more focus.”

    Mirotic has been a big contributor in Chicago’s two big, ‘must win’ games over the Pacers and Rockets. Getting more opportunities with Taj Gibson (ribs) sidelined, Mirotic has now scored 28 points in back-to-back games. Gibson is already considered ‘doubtful’ for Saturday’s contest.

    Along with Gibson, Derrick Rose (elbow) is also considered ‘doubtful’ for the Bulls’ meeting with the Pistons. If Rose is to sit out, E’Twaun Moore and Aaron Brooks would be on track to see a big boost in minutes, making them both intriguing daily fantasy options.

    (Be sure to stay close to Hoop Ball for updates on the players statuses before tip-off.)

    With the Bulls once again getting hit by the injury bug, the 14-year veteran Pau Gasol will now be a big focal point on the offensive side of the floor. Through three meetings against the Pistons, Gasol has averaged 25.7 points, 13 rebounds, 3.7 assists and an impressive 3.7 blocks per game.

    “All you can ask for is the guys who are on the floor give everything they’ve got, compete and play hard and try to do the right thing,” Gasol said. “If you have that you have a chance, especially when you have a certain level of talent. We can’t replace something that Tex Winter used to say, ‘There’s no substitute for hustle.’ You have to hustle out there, you have to play together and compete and that’s something that we’ve been insistent with throughout the year.”

    It seems the gameplan for the final seven games of the season is to play motivated and hustle. The Bulls are fighting for their playoff lives and they know that. The team now has positive vibes from their recent two-game winning streak, and it has built confidence inside of the Bulls’ locker room.

    “They’ve been big (these last two games),” Butler said. “I think they’ve given us confidence moving forward. I think all the guys want to win, of course; we are all in this together. Hopefully this will be a consistent streak. Win the rest of these games and find us in, I don’t know, seventh, eighth, sixth, whatever it may be.”

    The Pistons have fortified their position by going 6-4 over their last 10 games which included a nine-game homestand. Six games remain on the schedule and they won’t be quite as welcoming. Four of their next six games will be played away from home, and four of their upcoming six opponents are teams with a winning record.

    Reggie Jackson has been relied upon heavily to spark the Pistons’ offense this season, but he has been struggling over his last 10 games with averages of 13.5 points and 6.6 assists while shooting an abysmal 34 percent from the field.

    “I didn’t think his decision making in terms of shot selection and turnovers was very good,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said following the loss to the Mavs. “He did have ten assists. I thought he was trying to make plays, but I didn’t think his decision making was real, real good. It was a rough night.”

    These two teams gave us a show back in December when the game needed four overtimes before the Pistons were able to squeak out the victory. With both of these teams looking at this as a ‘must-win’ game, we’re going to look at it as our ‘must watch’ game of the night.

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