Pistons open at home vs. Houston

Pistons open at home vs. Houston

DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Pistons wrapped up their preseason last week with an impressive win over Atlanta.

Now, the slate is wiped clean.

Detroit hosts the Houston Rockets in Wednesday night's season opener, which the Pistons hope will be the start of a season that returns them to relevance in the Eastern Conference. Detroit started 4-20 in last year's lockout-shortened season but went 21-21 after that. The Pistons are hoping to make a run at a playoff berth this season behind young big man Greg Monroe.

``We obviously have a lot of work to do,'' coach Lawrence Frank said. ``You always have to be real, you can't get a false sense of what it is and we have a lot of work to do.''

That comment came after a 104-88 win over the Hawks in the preseason finale, a game that will be pretty well forgotten by the time the Pistons and Rockets finish up Wednesday night. Frank is in his second season as Detroit's coach. He had a more normal preseason this time around, with no labor dispute to shake up the league.

``What I'm pleased about is that I like our spirit, and I like our group,'' Frank said. ``I like the fact that our guys support each other, and the fact that our guys know that we have a lot of things to work on to get better, and they're willing to do it.''

First-round draft pick Andre Drummond, taken by the Pistons to help support Monroe around the basket, had 13 points and 10 rebounds in that last exhibition game, playing extended minutes with the starters.

``We play well together,'' Monroe said. ``As we get more comfortable playing with each other, I think we will make a good pair.''

Point guard Brandon Knight showed promise last season as a rookie, and he'll face an interesting matchup right from the start against Houston's Jeremy Lin. The Rockets also acquired James Harden from Oklahoma City recently after the Thunder were unable to work out a contract extension with the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

Monroe enters his third season looking like a potential star. He averaged 15.4 points per game in 2011-12 and is already a smart, polished offensive player.

Rodney Stuckey can provide scoring punch from the backcourt, and Tayshaun Prince is the last remaining on-court link to Detroit's championship team of 2004.

The Pistons haven't made the playoffs since 2009.

``We have a long way to go,'' Monroe said. ``I definitely think we are a good basketball team. I don't think we've reached our full potential yet, and there are some places we can get better. ... We need to focus on one game at a time instead of thinking about the long term or making predictions.''

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John Wall puts 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas on a poster

John Wall puts 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas on a poster

WASHINGTON -- Things were not looking good for the Washington Wizards to start Game 4. Honestly, there were some flashes back to the team’s performance in the first two games of the series against the Toronto Raptors.

That all quickly changed when John Wall did what he does best: drive to the basket.

Not only did Wall drive to the basket, he went and put Raptors' center Jonas Valanciunas on a poster.

Valanciunas is a 7-foot Lithuanian.

We get it John, it’s your city and we’re all your residents.





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Capitals one win away from facing the Penguins ... again

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Capitals one win away from facing the Penguins ... again

The Washington Capitals are one win away from advancing to the second round of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

If they do beat the Blue Jackets in Game 6 or Game 7, a familiar foe awaits them.

The Pittsburgh Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday with a 8-5 win in Game 6. They will play the winner of the Capitals-Columbus Blue Jackets series.

Because of course they will.

The Penguins have beaten the Capitals in the second round in each of the past two seasons. The series went six games in 2016 and seven in 2017.

Washington’s biggest rival has been a thorn in the side of the Caps throughout the team’s history. Washington and Pittsburgh have met in the postseason 10 times. Only once have the Caps come out victorious, in 1994.

Pittsburgh has won five Stanley Cups in their history and each time, they had to beat the Caps in the playoffs to do it.

The emergence of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin helped to reignite the Washington-Pittsburgh rivalry, but that too has been one sided. Crosby has won three Stanley Cups while Ovechkin has never advanced past the second round.

Before you despair, however, consider this. Coming into the season, no one knew what to expect from the Capitals. Expectations were low. Somehow, Washington managed to overcome the loss of several players in the offseason and managed to win the Metropolitan Division.

In a season in which the Caps have already defied expectations, perhaps this will be the year they finally get past Pittsburgh and advance to the conference final. Maybe? Please?

First things first, they still need one more win against Columbus. Game 6 will be Monday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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John Tortorella makes Game 7 proclamation