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Magic vs. Pistons preview: Separated by a game, Magic seek tie-breaker over Detroit

The Magic look to build on their wins over the Celtics and Rockets

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

My how things can change in a week.

Following yet another substantial losing streak, the Magic found themselves at a crossroad. At 17-24, but just 2.5 games back from the Eastern Conference playoffs, the trade vultures began swirling overhead.

And the Magic responded.

Back-to-back victories over the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets and the Magic are right back in the thick of the playoff race, only but a game behind head coach Steve Clifford’s former team, the Charlotte Hornets.

Amidst their own playoff fight, the Detroit Pistons host the Orlando Magic having lost five of six, and 10 of their past 13 games. The lone bright spot came last week in Blake Griffin’s 44-point explosion in the Staples Center against his former team, but the Pistons have had few moments to celebrate in that past three weeks sans that.

But don’t expect a walk over. The Magic have hardly been predictable this season, and are a sub-par 7-13 on the road. And just in case you’ve forgotten, it took last second heroics from Evan Fournier to topple these same Pistons just three weeks ago. With 2.5 seconds remaining, Fournier breathed past a screen for a 16-foot runner as the clock expired.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons, led by Luke Kennard’s electric first half, erased an eight-point advantage with three minutes remaining as Reggie Bullock drew a three-point foul on Jerian Grant.

The Magic held the Pistons to 42% while shooting 47% themselves, but keep in the mind that the Magic have been a better shooting team at home than on the road this season. Shooting 45.4% at home and 43.1% on the road could be the difference between falling or stealing the W in Detroit.

As far as style of play, these teams are remarkably similar. Each team lies in the bottom five in both pace and offense, while sitting in the middle of pack defensively. The Pistons are a top-ten rebounding team, and limit opponent’s opportunities in transition by aptly matching up and stopping progress. They’re especially adept at stopping the three-point shot, where they hold opposing team’s to a league-best 32.3%, and just nine converted shots per game (1st).

To defeat the Pistons and win the tiebreaker (1-1), the Magic will once again need to win in the paint (60-50 last game), earn trips to the stripe (Detroit is 27th), and minimize second-chance opportunities to Andre Drummond and Griffin. The Magic played Drummond off the floor in the previous contest, holding him to one point in eight first-half minutes. Zaza Pachulia, who earned much of his minutes and drew the ire of Nikola Vucevic with a smack to the face should not be available to spell him this time.

For more on the Pistons, visit our friends at the Pistons community Detroit Bad Boys.

Detroit Orlando
Pace: 98.7 (20th) Pace: 97.2 (26th)
ORtg: 106.7 (24th) ORtg: 105.8 (26th)
DRtg: 109.5 (12th) DRtg: 109.7 (14th)
Projected Starters:
Detroit Orlando
PG - Reggie Jackson PG - D.J. Augustin
SG - Reggie Bullock SG - Evan Fournier
SF - Bruce Brown F - Jonathan Isaac
F - Blake Griffin PF - Aaron Gordon
C - Andre Drummond C - Nikola Vucevic

Injuries: Detroit - Henry Ellenson (out), Zaza Pachulia (out) ; Orlando - Timofey Mozgov (out)

Who: Orlando Magic (19-24) at Detroit Pistons (18-24)

When: Wednesday, January 16th, 7:00 PM EST

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI