At least for now.
Even without Blake Griffin, who was a late scratch because of a bruised right ankle, the Pistons played tough and kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
With a 32-17 scoring margin in the third quarter, the Pistons moved ahead to stay, pushing to a 103-92 victory over the Washington Wizards on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena. The Pistons (35-40) won for the fifth time in the last six games and have just two more games against teams with winning records in their final seven.
Andre Drummond had 24 points, 23 rebounds and four assists, Reggie Bullock and Anthony Tolliver 14 points each for the Pistons, who have a weekend back-to-back in New York against the Knicks and Nets.
With the win, they're 4 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot in the East, with only seven games left.
It might be too little, too late. Might be.
After a 49-49 tie at halftime, the Pistons surged in the third quarter, with a 3-pointer by Stanley Johnson (nine points and five rebounds) and a three-point play by Drummond. But Bradley Beal (15 points, five rebounds) answered with a 3-pointer before another basket by Drummond, for a 65-58 lead at the 5:53 mark.
Kelly Oubre (14 points) hit a jumper and Markieff Morris (11 points) hit back-to-back baskets to trim the lead to three, but the Pistons finished the last 4:29 of the period on a 16-4 run for an 81-66 margin heading to the fourth quarter.
The Wizards (41-34) made another push, starting the final period with an 8-2 run, with a pair of baskets by Oubre. They got within 91-87 at the 5:15 mark after a 10-4 spurt with a reverse by Tomas Satoransky, but the Pistons found another answer, with six straight points, with a lay-in by Bullock and back-to-back baskets by Reggie Jackson (13 points and eight assists) to push the lead back to double digits.
Here are some other observations from the Pistons win:
■Tolliver started in place of Griffin and scored seven points in the second quarter. He provided a different presence on the perimeter, but didn't make any 3-pointers in the first half, spending more time moving away from the ball and trying to get into the paint for mismatches.
■Drummond shined on the offensive end and excelled defensively, moving well on switches, hedging on screens and making the right switches. He's had his difficulties guarding the Wizards' Marcin Gortat in the past, but did well defensively Thursday and helping on others.
■Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. sustained a right ankle sprain in the second quarter and missed the remainder of the game. The Wizards already were without the injured John Wall but had another scare when Beal collided with Henry Ellenson in the third quarter. Beal was down for a minute but returned to the game in the fourth quarter.
■The Wizards tried intentionally fouling Drummond in the final minutes to put him on the free-throw line. Drummond made all four free throws in the same situation on Monday against the Lakers — and came through with 2-of-4 on Thursday.
■Henry Ellenson got some prime playing time as the backup power forward with Griffin out. Ellenson played well, with nine points and five rebounds in 16 minutes, with an array of moves, including a 3-pointer and some scores inside the paint.