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Tonight's Orlando Magic Game: at Detroit Pistons

The Orlando Magic will try to pick up their 6th win in their last 7 games tonight when they visit the Palace of Auburn Hills to take on the Detroit Pistons, who bring up the rear in the NBA's Central division not too far removed from their dominance in the early part of this decade. Detroit's rebuilding plans included splurging on free agents Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon last summer, a ploy which hasn't worked out. The Pistons rank 26th in offensive efficiency despite the additions of those two players. Stalwarts Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince have missed a combined 59 games with various ailments, although they're both healthy now. Detroit's not much better on defense, ranking 21st. It's a team going nowhere fast, but one that presents the Magic some tough matchups.

2009/2010 NBA Season

Detroit Pistons throwback logo
31-16 15-30
January 31st, 2010
The Palace of Auburn Hills
6:00 PM
Fox Sports Florida
Probable Starters
Jameer Nelson PG Rodney Stuckey
Vince Carter SG Richard Hamilton
Matt Barnes SF Tayshaun Prince
Rashard Lewis PF Jonas Jerebko
Dwight Howard C Ben Wallace
Previous Meetings
November 3rd: Pistons 85, Magic 80
November 16th: Magic 110, Pistons 103
Game Officials
Dan Crawford
Matt Boland
Tommy Nuñez Jr.

For one thing, center Ben Wallace has turned back the clock to his All-Star years as a Piston. Though he's not quite at an All-Star level this season, he's playing extremely well relative to expectation, and has somehow managed to lead the league in offensive rebound rate despite his advanced age (35). Orlando, thanks to Dwight Howard, is the league's best defensive rebounding team. However--and apologies for the broken record on this score, everyone--it's had some poor performances on the glass against good offensive rebounding teams. Detroit's 2nd in that category. Look out.

There's also offense to consider. Small guards with a scoring mentality give Orlando trouble, and Detroit has the trio of Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, and Will Bynum at its disposal. Additionally, Hamilton has proven to be a reasonably reliable scorer when healthy, and he always seems to give the Magic a little extra.

This game is unusual in that the teams involved have played twice this season, but never at full strength. Prince and Hamilton haven't faced Orlando since last year. Ditto for Magic forward Rashard Lewis against the Pistons, who missed the first two meetings due to an NBA suspension. Starting in his stead in the first meeting, Ryan Anderson shot an uncharacteristically poor 2-of-14 from the field and 1-of-11 from three-point range as Detroit won by 5. Howard and his backup, Marcin Gortat, each fouled out. Given those factors, it's remarkable that the Pistons didn't pile it on heavier, even though they didn't have Hamilton or Prince.

In any case, Detroit's lost 4 straight games and doesn't have much of anything to look forward to, apart from the draft lottery. Nevertheless, Orlando has played poorly on the second night of back-to-back sets this season, and games at the Palace don't often turn out well for it. I get the feeling that if the Magic win, the score will be a lot closer than it should, given the talent disparity on hand.

Howard and Chris Wilcox (I assume; how can Ben Wallace jump center in 2010?) will jump it up at 6 PM.