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Pistons vs. Magic preview: Ish Smith starting in place of injured Reggie Jackson

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The Pistons will begin to learn what life without Reggie Jackson is like all over again

NBA: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Reggie Jackson is out at least six weeks, after which time he will be re-evaluated. His grade 3 ankle sprain suffered against the Indiana Pacers is an injury that keeps many players out up to 12 weeks or more. In other words, the Pistons need to figure out how to succeed for the rest of the season without Jackson in the fold.

It starts tonight against the struggling Orlando Magic. After a hot start the wheels have really fallen off for the Magic, who are 3-20 after an 8-4 start. Injuries have been a huge factor in imploding Orlando’s season as the team has been without Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic for large stretches of the season.

The team just got Fournier back in a 107-89 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday, and the team might get Gordon back tonight. This is just the kind of game the Pistons love to lose and cut the heart out of their fans.

Game Vitals

When: December, 28, 7 p.m. EST
Where: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Odds: Detroit -4.5

Analysis

First the good news — Andre Drummond won’t have to try and guard stretch big man Nikola Vucevic tonight. Instead, he’ll be matched up with the offensively challenged Bismack Biyombo. Drummond will need to protect the glass (something he and his team have been increasingly poor at lately), but if they can eliminate put-back opportunities Biyombo has no offensive game to speak of.

The bad news is that, the Magic could see Aaron Gordon return tonight. Who knows what kind of condition he’d been in after missing the past five games with a right calf strain. He is officially listed as questionable and was a full participant at practice Wednesday.

Ish Smith will likely have his hands full going against future Piston Elfrid Payton, who has quietly become a pretty effective point guard. He’s learned how to finish in the lane (69 percent this season) and that has made all the difference in making him a dangerous offensive player as the jump shot has never really developed.

The Pistons will also need to keep track of Mario Hezonja who almost single-handedly turned a Detroit blowout into an Orlando win earlier this month. Hezonja hit eight 3s. In the four games since he’s hit four — total. I don’t want another Hezonja breakout game, please.

Projected Lineup

Detroit Pistons:
Ish Smith, Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

Orlando Magic:
Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo

Prediction

Even diehard Pistons fans watch a surprising amount of the Rockets-Celtics game on TNT. Whether that’s because of boredom, frustration or an early blowout remains to be seen.