With two teams scratching and clawing to get into playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference, you can expect the game between the Orlando Magic (19-24) and Detroit Pistons (18-24) to be an absolute war tonight.
With the Magic only ahead of the Pistons by 0.5 games, whoever gets the win will get a very valuable one as we march towards April. Currently, Orlando owns the ninth spot in the standings, while Detroit is right behind them in the 10th position.
For the Pistons, it’s just been horrendous basketball as of late. In their past 22 games, Detroit has compiled a record of 5-17. On their recent West Coast trip, the Pistons went 1-2 with their only win coming against the Los Angeles Clippers — Blake Griffin’s former team. That short momentum was then destroyed in a 100-96 loss at the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
Good news for Detroit, however: After more than a month of being injured due to an adductor tear, sixth man Ish Smith gives the team some depth. In his return against the Jazz, Smith had eight points and two assists — this coming in 19 minutes. Another crazy factor involving Smith: He guaranteed the Pistons would make the playoffs after the game.
Going on a quick one-game road trip, the Orlando Magic were brilliant over the weekend at home. First, they defeated one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics, 105-103 — that would snap a four-game losing streak. They then turned around and dropped one of the best teams in the Western Conference with the Houston Rockets, 116-109.
The momentum is clearly on Orlando’s side, and if the Pistons aren’t careful, the Magic could roll into Detroit and steal a win at Little Caesars Arena. Orlando is currently riding a two-game win streak, and a victory over the Pistons would tie their longest winning streak this season. Take a note of that though: The Magic have problems with consistency.
A key piece for Orlando, backup center Mo Bamba, has missed the Magic’s past three games due to a sore left foot. Although he was a full participant in practice on Monday, head coach Steve Clifford said that Bamba will most likely return Friday against the Brooklyn Nets rather than tonight against the Detroit Pistons.
In two meetings this season, Orlando and Detroit are tied 1-1 in their series.
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CHECK THE NUMBERS
The numbers are very similar in this matchup, not surprising considering the circumstances — and each team comes in with two slight advantages. On the offensive end, the Orlando Magic have a tally of 103.3 PPG which places them with a -3 disadvantage. The shooting is the only edge they have, being +1 at 44.3 FG%. Another slim positive for Orlando, they’re +2 in ball protection at 107.2 PA. A -2 disadvantage also comes in the rebounding department — Orlando sits at 43.3 RPG for the season.
Though the numbers aren’t much of an edge for the Pistons nor Magic, the starpower of Blake Griffin and the homecourt advantage might be able to notch the advantage up a bit more for Detroit. In offensive production, the Pistons are sitting at +3 averaging 106.6 PPG — the only negative comes in field goal percentage: -1 at 43.4 FG%. On the defensive end, Detroit has another disadvantage — this time -2 at 109.5 PA. They grab another edge on the glass, a key factor for tonight, grabbing 45.7 RPG — that’s +2 over Orlando.
This is a huge game tonight with the playoffs being at stake, and as a result, you can expect the intensity to be sky high between the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons. Both teams have two advantages in the main statistical categories, so you have to give the edge to Detroit in this one — this due to home court advantage, and the lethal ability of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.
The main reason why I see it being hard for the Magic to steal a victory from Detroit tonight is how big the Pistons are in the paint. The double-teams on Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic will be a tough thing to strategize around with Griffin and Drummond to deal with — the battle around the board may kill Orlando tonight, especially with backup center Mo Bamba being out of the picture.
With the No. 9 position in the Eastern Conference up for grabs (the No. 8 seed gets into the playoffs), and the teams being pretty balanced, you can expect an absolute dog-fight in Mo-Town tonight — but with everything I just mentioned, take the Pistons in a close one. Especially with the battle in the paint — Detroit advantage.