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Big dreams just keep on rolling in Motor City

Detroit Pistons are setting a record pace with victory over Miami giving them 24 wins

Big dreams just keep on rolling in Motor City

They keep rolling along, pushing aside their flirtation with history with their words, while their actions keep pulling them a little closer to something truly remarkable.

The Pistons now are 24-3.

Let that rattle around in your imagination a little bit.

At the season's one-third pole, the Pistons essentially are tied with the Chicago Bulls' record-setting pace of 72 single-season victories, set in the 1995-96 season.

And is there anything wrong with imagining the possibilities, regardless of how outlandish they might seem right now? It certainly beats the alternative of dreading another vacuous football season.

The Pistons have become a desolate winter's saving grace, yet they're trying to avoid suggestions that they might make history.

"It's y'all who are constantly bringing it up," Chauncey Billups said after Thursday night's 106-101 victory over Miami. "We have not had one conversation about that. We're not thinking about it. If we're still at this pace in March or April, then we'll start talking about it. But we're not even in January, so why are we even bringing it up?"

But envisioning 70 victories isn't about the players. It's about the sports fans of this city, who just might shake their obsession over the Lions' foibles for a brief second and fantasize about the heights of greatness.

It's fun wondering "what if," even if the calendar isn't working in your favor.

"All we're focusing on is taking care of our business and taking things one game at a game," Rip Hamilton said.

And they took care of business in standard fashion Thursday night at the Palace. Last season's Eastern Conference finalists met for the first time this season, both with new coaches calling the shots. And if it's possible to develop a slight playoff pulse in a late December game, then the Pistons' victory qualified.

Pistons coach Flip Saunders said he would have loved to watch this one from the stands.

"You saw two teams that really played hard, a lot of emotion," he said. "It wasn't a sloppy game. It was a very well-played game and a very entertaining game."

You have to decide what you want the most - a championship or immortality.

Michael Jordan set the tone for the 1996 Bulls from the start of training camp. It was his first full season after the first of his numerous retirements, and Jordan demanded that the Bulls distinguish themselves from any other champion in NBA history.

What the Bulls did that season was nothing short of sick. Like the Pistons, they won 23 of their first 26, then rolled off 18 straight victories, not losing their fourth game until February 2. Jordan ably navigated the Bulls through the inevitable land mines of the 82-game grind.

Joe Dumars, the Pistons' president of basketball operations, still was playing then, but he had to be reminded of what the Bulls accomplished.

"When I heard that after the Bulls started 23-3, that they won 18 straight after that, I told myself to not even think about it because that's just unreal," Dumars said. "But I can see how it's probably more fun for the fans and the media to talk about it, and that's fine."

The Pistons can continue feigning interest in chasing history, but should the victories keep piling up at this rate, a moment will come after the All-Star break in February when they'll have to look themselves in the mirror and make a choice. Obviously, success is measured in championships, but the 1984 Tigers are defined in this town as much for their 35-5 start as for their World Series title at the end.

The Pistons don't want additional pressure, but should they continue to roll through the NBA, the pressure will find them, as will the national recognition they've long craved. And then the Pistons won't have an option. They will have to acknowledge that something truly special is unfolding before our eyes.

Until then, they'll just go about business in their methodical way, like Ben Wallace stuffing a Shaquille O'Neal shot, Rasheed Wallace nailing a critical three-pointer, Hamilton working Dwyane Wade at the defensive end or Billups orchestrating a complete effort worthy of most valuable player consideration.

They might be uncomfortable talking about what's probably unattainable, but the Pistons should understand that the premature dreaming isn't for their benefit, but rather for everybody else's.

In other NBA action: San Antonio 111, N.O./ Oklahoma City 84; Seattle 112, Denver 105.

Updated : 2021-05-19 07:53 GMT+08:00