The Detroit Pistons are looking for a split on their road trip to Florida after being easily dispatched by the Miami Heat. The Orlando, as we'll get to shortly, are no Miami Heat.
The Magic are an NBA-worst 2-15 since Dec. 21. That streak includes losses to the Raptors, Hornets, Wizards, Pistons and Bobcats. That loss to the Pistons was just five days ago, a 105-90 drubbing where not even JJ Reddick scoring 26 points on 9-of-10 shooting could keep the game close. How have things gone wrong so completely for a team that started the year 12-13? Quite simply, the Magic have no playmakers. They don't have anyone that can dictate the action on either end of the floor. They are a collection of competent jump shooters who need to execute flawlessly in order to win.
They don't get to the free-throw line, they don't block shots, they don't get any steals and as a result they don't get out and run or have very many easy opportunities. They also have a shallow lineup that relies on a lot from its starters. When your offensive leader is Arron Afflalo, who has proven he works best as a third option, you know you have offensive deficiencies.
That doesn't mean they are devoid of talent. Afflalo is good in the right role, which is as a third option on a good team not a first option. Reddick is a quality shooter who has improved his defense and can get white hot at any time. Young Nikola Vucevic is a great option in the post who probably makes Sixer fans cry every time they see Andrew Bynum in street clothes.
But they just don't have enough. Jameer Nelson is on the downswing and Glen Davis is Glen Davis. And their bench is just dreadful. For some reason first-year coach Jacques Vaughn doesn't trust rookie Andrew Nicholson, who has been the Magic's most effective reserve. Other than fellow rookie Moe Harkless has disappointed, Josh McRoberts should be an 11th man and E'Twaun Moore is a limited jump shooter who they give the green light because they are desperate for someone to provide some offense.
What can we say about the Pistons? It seems like no conversatoins can happen around here that doesn't involve Andre Drummond so why should today be any different? The big penguin had an efficient double double of 11 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes when these teams last met.
Why was he so effective? At the risk of attracting the self-satisfied wrath of a certain poster it might be because of how good the bench unit plays together, particularly Drummond and "stretch-four" partner Charlie Villanueva. Grantland recently wrote a great piece about how effective the Pistons bench unit is and provided some video of Drummond paired with Monroe and Drummond paired with Charlie V (h/t to Thom not Tom). The thesis is that it's better for the young, raw, Drummond to have less options and less responsibilities. Just let him pick and roll with Bynum with Charlie V. spreading the floor as a 3-point threat.
Keys to the Game
Protect the paint : Davis and Vucevic want to do the dirty work inside. The Pistons need to make sure the Magic turn to the low-efficiency jump shots they fall back on. Detroit also has a nice size advantage both in the starting lineup and on the bench. The Pistons have shown that want to own the glass and many of their recent wins have coincided with them grabbing 50+ boards. They can do that to the Magic.
Take care of the ball: The Magic are last in the NBA in forcing turnovers but the Pistons have proven they are very capable of giving the ball away to any opponent. Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe are on notice.
Will Bynum: He needs to giveth and not taketh away. The Magic guards are slow and Orlando's reserve big men can't make up the difference. Bynum should be able to get by his man and into the paint.. But he needs to look to drive and not fall in love with his jump shot. I want to see a few nice Drummond alley-oops today.