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Pistons vs. Magic: Are we in must-win mode?

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Every game is critical for the Pistons as they hope to scrape into the playoffs.

Pistons careers in perspective
Pistons careers in perspective
Ben Quagliata-Pistons Down Under

Game five of the nine-game home stand sees the Orlando Magic, complete with Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, trot into the Palace looking to snap the Pistons' three-game winning streak and put a dent in our playoff hopes.

Game Vitals

Where: The Palace, Auburn Hills, MI

When: Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 7:30PM ET

Watch: FSD

Exceptionally Detailed Analysis

We're now entering must-win territory for the Pistons. If you had told me at the start of the season that after 71 games we'd be 37-34 I'd have been ecstatic. But, if you had told me that that would only be good enough for 9th seed, I'd have laughed at you. Such has been the sudden rise in quality of the Eastern Conference this season that, contrary to recent history, a record over .500 still may not be enough. Ridiculous, I know.

The Pistons are on a three-game winning streak, although the opponents beaten aren't particularly impressive (in that they all have little to no chance of making the playoffs) in Sacramento, Brooklyn and Milwaukee. What's more disappointing, however, is the manner of these victories. Against Sacramento, they squandered a 20-point lead before waking up and turning it on again. Against Brooklyn, they gave up a 13-0 run before relying on bench kings Aron Baynes and Anthony Tolliver for a revival. And against Milwaukee? They needed a furious late rally that relied on a missed travel call, a lucky bounce and a Dre tip-in to seal a last-second victory.

The Pistons have found defensive intensity lacking as of late. They may have held Milwaukee to 91 points, a pleasant change after 100+ efforts from both Brooklyn and Sacramento, but that's more to Milwaukee's poor shooting than our defence. The Pistons need to be in it from the start and not rely on a big deficit to enact motivation.

Orlando has lost four straight games, but the strength of their schedule was pretty tough over that span. Losses to Charlotte, Cleveland, Toronto and Boston aren't unexpected and each game was within single digits aside from their 11-point loss to Boston. Former Pistons Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings have adopted bench roles since the trade for Tobias Harris, although the Magic list Jennings as a probable starter tonight.

The reason this is a must-win game is because of the schedule of our close competition for the 8th seed. The Bulls host the Knicks tonight, which could be tricky, but Chicago is expected to win. That game will be on ESPN. Washington hosts Atlanta tonight, and while the Hawks are a good team, the Wizards have been so hot lately that it probably won't matter.

With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out for tonight's game with an illness, Stanley Johnson is expected to start in his place. Here's hoping Stanimal comes up with a big game in KCP's absence.

Key Matchup

Reggie Jackson vs. Brandon Jennings

I love $WAG as much as the next guy, but let's be real, Jackson should absolutely abuse Jennings defensively tonight. Jennings has a reputation as someone who is not exactly the most exhausting matchup while you're on offense, as he cannot stay in front of many people due to his size. While he's incredibly quick and fleet-footed, the Pistons' propensity to run pick and rolls should leave Jackson free as Jennings dies on screens. However, Jennings has the very same advantage on the other end.

Last Time We Met

January 4, 2016, Pistons won 115-89 (season series 1-0 DET)

This game was the real return of the $WAG, as he lit up the game with 17 points off the bench, keying a 22-4 run in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. It was just a fun game, with Jennings throwing crazy passes, KCP and Jennings hitting crazy threes, and the bench being crazy celebrating. This game was the last great memory of Brandon Jennings in Motown blue.

Score Prediction

Pistons 113 - 97 Magic

Lineup Prediction

Pistons: Jackson, Johnson, Morris, Harris, Drummond

Magic: Jennings, Oladipo, Fournier, Gordon, Dedmon

Injured/In Doubt

Pistons: Meeks (body), Dinwiddie (ankle)

Magic: Vucevic (groin)

Community Question

Who scores more points in the battle of PG $WAG?