Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL
When: Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 7PM ET
TWO. That is the magic number, reduced from three despite a horrible performance and loss last night in south Florida. Because of the work of the depleted Memphis Grizzlies, who managed to comfortably defeat the Chicago Bulls, a win tonight in central Florida would mean that the Pistons would only need one win (or one Bulls loss) to lock up a playoff seed.
Unfortunately, the Pistons will not be going into this game in any sort of form, having offered up an absolute stinker against the Miami Heat. In a game where Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined to offer five points on 2-20 shooting (0-6 from 3), it was too much to rely on the steady hand of Tobias Harris (21 points on 8-10 shooting, 7 rebounds) to guide the Pistons to a victory. It was clear Harris had it early, as he relentlessly attacked the rim, and supplemented what could be considered a low amount of shot attempts with 5-5 from the free throw line.
Unfortunately, as has been the story as of late, the backcourt just struggled mightily to establish anything even resembling rhythm or coherency. Reggie Jackson had a passable game, if only judging against the struggles of his running mate. Jackson had 21 points, albeit on 6-18 shooting. His night looks a lot better than it was due to his 8-8 showing from the charity stripe. Positively, he didn't turn it over (the TO quota was filled by Marcus Morris, who had six), but did only have 3 assists, which can be attributed to poor team shooting and him being forced to take over in the second half.
But as alluded to, KCP had a horror show. Sure he made a field goal (looking at you, Marcus), but he finished with a solitary 2 points on 1-6 shooting, including missing both threes he attempted. The sad part was most of his shots looked like they had no chance of landing in the same area code as the rim. His misses were terribad. His night was compounded by the rare occurrence that he played the fewest minutes of all the starters (25) when he usually has the most. And to make matters worse, his only statistical contribution besides his 2 points and missed shots were 2 turnovers and 4 personal fouls. Yes, KCP had 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals and 0 blocks. According to Basketball Reference, this is only the second time since his rookie season this has happened. It happened 10 times in his rookie year, but most of these 12 career games of no impact came in single-digit minutes (9 out of 12) and his 25 mins is by far the most. It is also, in terms of game score, the worst game of his professional career.
The Orlando Magic are the hottest team in the league. They have won four of their last five, which was preceded by a six game losing streak. Admittedly, their wins haven't been against stellar competition (Brooklyn, Chicago, Memphis and Indiana) but you can only play the hand that's dealt you. And the super impressive thing is that the Magic are averaging nearly 119 points per game over the last five. Evan Fournier and Victor Oladipo have been a big part of that, as has the return of Nikola Vucevic from injury. You may remember that Vucevic missed our last encounter with Orlando, but he is available this time around, although he's listed to come off the bench by Magic personnel.
Players To Watch
Pistons: Marcus Morris
After being so hot for so long, Marcus Morris' performance last night was like when you're having a really great dream and you wake up just as you get to the good part. Morris' last couple of weeks were like the date with the supermodel where she laughed at your jokes, flicked her hair flirtatiously and touched your hand, and just as you're about to ramp it up, you wake up with a mouthful of pillow and your college roommate giving you a weird look.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see how Marcus bounces back tonight. We all knew this ridiculous run he was on was unsustainable, but we didn't think the magic would dissipate so abruptly, like when you're dreaming about a supermodel and then you...I think you get the point.
Magic: Evan Fournier
Fournier has been pretty hot since March, averaging a shade under 18 points a game, above his season average of 15. The main reason it will be interesting is because this season KCP has had his measure, holding him to 7 points a game on 31% shooting and 14% from downtown. Hopefully KCP can also rebound from his horror night.
Last Time We Met
23 March 2016, Detroit won 118-102 (season series 2-0 DET)
Andre Drummond had a monster game the last time these two teams met, finishing with 30 points and 14 rebounds, while Tobias Harris, facing the Magic for the first time since the trade, tallied 18 points. For the Magic, former Pistons Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova were largely anonymous. Jennings started but only played 11 minutes, tallying 6 points and 0 assists, while his backup for the night, Elfrid Payton, came off the bench with a triple double (20-10-10). Charge Card Ersan played 24 minutes off the bench, finishing with 8 points including 2 triples, and 3 rebounds.
The Pistons seem to play better with less rest, and there's no way that Stan Van Gundy will let them play so atrociously twice in a row. Also the Orlando nightlife isn't as noted as Miami's. At least that's what Justise Winslow tells me anyway.
Pistons 117-104 Magic
Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Harris, Drummond
Magic: Payton, Oladipo, Fournier, Gordon, Dedmon
Pistons: Meeks (general body area probably), Team (pride-hopefully)
Magic: Watson (ankle-questionable)
After getting a bad game out of the system, does Marcus Morris resume his hot streak?