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Pistons vs. Magic preview: Wait, Orlando is good?

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In a surprise twist this season, the Magic are not only good, but very good.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Raise your hands if you expected the Magic to be 19-15 after 32 games this season...put your hand down you liar. The Magic are one of the many Eastern Conference teams stuck in a contention cluster no one saw coming, with 12 teams within only a handful of games from the pinnacle.

Game Vitals

Where: Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, MI

When: Monday, January 4, 2016, 7:30PM EST

Watch: FSD

Exceptionally Detailed Analysis

The Pistons produced another disappointing display last time out, dropping a winnable game to an equally lacklustre Indiana Pacers outfit. The only difference in the end was that Paul George plays for Indiana and not Detroit, as he scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a run of incredible shots, stepback threes and missed offensive fouls. Not everyone enjoyed the show though, with Stan Van Gundy losing his cool after the officials missed what he felt a clear push off on George against KCP, resulting in both the first Piston ejection of the season and his first since joining Detroit. Marcus Morris was also not among the fans enjoying the PG13 rated spectacle, as he gave George a manly shove in the chest after both players needlessly got heated after George decided to play defence while up 12 with 6 seconds left.

Fracas and George aside, the Pistons could not be accused of playing well themselves on Saturday. After I threw out the stat in the preview that the Pistons were amazing when hitting 35% or better from 3, and woeful when under the same mark, the Pistons decided to prove me right by offering up an absolute stinker from downtown, shooting 3-20 at a scorching 15% rate.

In another polarising game, KCP led the Pistons in scoring with 16 while also pulling down a career-high-tying 10 rebounds. He didn't shoot it particularly well though, and it's frustrating to see him hoisting up numerous threes when the chances of them going in aren't as high as they could be. The wide open shots are fine, you obviously can't ignore them, but the contested pull ups and the one pass heaves with 17 on the shot clock are less than ideal, and hopefully this is just part of the maturation process.

I'm not even going to get into Reggie Jackson's display on Saturday, but let's just say he was a large reason why the Pistons struggled mightily, struggling massively from the field, finishing with 12 points.

The Orlando Magic are one of the bigger surprise packets in a generally surprising Eastern Conference. Sitting at 7th in the East with a nice 19-15 record, they appear to be transitioning from the tank mode into the next stage of development which is solid contention. They've been led this season by one of the best skilled young centers in the league in Nikola Vucevic, who's averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds. DBB target Tobias Harris is also contributing 14.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in another solid season for him, although concerns about his deep shooting appear valid as he's only connecting on 32% of his triples.

The surprise for the Magic has been the play of Evan Fournier, who is averaging 14.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 44% from the field, 38% from 3 and 85% from the FT line. Considered a meh acquisition at the start of last season, he has stolen the starting spot from Victor Oladipo at times this season, including last game against Cleveland, where he played 28 mins to Oladipo's 14. He looks set to retain his place in the starting lineup next to Elfrid Payton for this game.

Victor Oladipo has probably been the Magic's biggest disappointment this season. While his raw numbers are decent (12.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists), his shooting has been horrendous, hitting only 27% of his threes and 38% of all his field goal attempts. You know you're struggling from beyond the arc when Elfrid Payton has a better percentage than you.

Last Time We Met

March 27, 2015, Detroit won 111-97

This was Reggie Jackson's first good triple double for the Pistons as it came in a W, with Reggie leading the team in points (26), rebounds (11) and assists (10). In this game, Tayshaun Prince also had his best offensive performance in 3 years, scoring 23, while Andre Drummond added 16 points. Tobias Harris led the Magic with 21.

Connections

-- Stan Van Gundy chilled out in Orlando for a few years in the late 2000s

-- So did Brendan Malone and Bob Beyer

-- Quentin Richardson was bossed around by Stan Van for a season as a player, before realising he liked it so much he wanted to experience it in a suit behind the bench as well

-- Malik Allen is also a graduate from this school of thought

-- Pat Garrity lived in Orlando for 9 years, and I assume he now lives in Detroit, unless he's a fan of telecommuting

-- Anthony Harvey was chief hydration officer, water technician, bench pump-up artist, Orlando's S&C coach from 2012-14

-- Brian Wright did various things in Orlando in various places for various years

-- Brandon Jennings dated Tobias Harris from 2011-13

-- Andre Drummond had a college relationship with Shabazz Napier

-- Marcus Morris just recently broke things off with Channing Frye

-- Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova used to be ruled by Scott Skiles before ordering a new coach like The Replacements

-- Skiles also spent a fair bit of time in East Lansing in his late teens and early 20s

-- Scott Perry recently escaped Detroit and now resides in Orlando, doing the reverse-Garrity

Players To Watch

Pistons: Reggie Jackson

A bounce back game is really necessary here. Payton is a good defender with size so Reggie may have some trouble, but these are the types of opponents he should be beating regularly.

Magic: Nikola Vucevic

Exactly the type of center to give Drummond fits defensively. Look for him to have a big night.

Score Prediction

Our trend of dazzling inconsistency continues as we dismantle the Magic behind a bench triple double from Brandon Jennings.

Pistons 113 - 100 Magic

Lineup Prediction

Pistons: Rinse and repeat

Magic: Payton, Fournier, Harris, Frye, Vucevic

Injured/In Doubt

Pistons: Meeks (foot)

Magic: Watson (calf)

Community Question

Did you understand the connections?