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Pistons vs. Magic preview: Despite ugly losses, playoffs still possible for Pistons

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Pistons head to Orlando after road losses to Brooklyn and Chicago.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

In my head, when I signed up a while back to preview the late March meeting between the Pistons and Magic, the context surrounding this contest was much different than the current reality.

But here we are.

After two depressing “must win” losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls, the Pistons have found themselves on the outside looking in at the postseason - and that’s bad enough. But, in addition to and more importantly, now I’ve got to muster up some sort of preview for two possible lottery-bound teams.

This isn’t what I had in mind.

I might just mail this preview in and fill it with easily digestible cliches - akin to Grant Long’s pregame “Keys to Victory.”

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Game Vitals

When: March 24th at 7:30 p.m. EST

Where: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida

Watch: Fox Sports Detroit (Plus)

Analysis

“For the Pistons to win tonight, they need must rebound well, limit turnovers and keep the Magic out of the paint. Now, lets kick it to Greg Kelser and George Blaha. Boys, take it away!”

- Grant Long, probably

Nothing personal Grant, just frustrated on my end.

Even after all my pouting and self-contemplation of why I spend time I can’t get back on this team, heading into tonight, they’re still only one game back of the final playoff spot.

What to watch for:

Over the past three weeks, Elfrid Payton has put up averages of nearly 13 points per game on 54 percent shooting along with eight rebounds and eight assists. He’s not going to wow you with speed but his change of pace game is a tough to keep in front of:

Payton’s backcourt mate Evan Fournier is known and sold as a shooter but feels right at home putting the ball on the ground as his .922 PPP in the pick and roll and .937 PPP (per Synergy) after a hand-off would suggest:

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When Serge Ibaka was sent to Toronto around the trade deadline, Magic forward Aaron Gordon has been more power than small forward which has translated well for the third year monster athlete.

A majority of Gordon’s damage still comes close to the hoop but he’s shown a tendency to step beyond the arc as well - which at 27 percent shooting on over three attempts per game is fine by me.

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Transplanting Ish Smith into the starting lineup didn’t do much as far as the bottom line is concerned against the Bulls but obviously it’s a small sample.

What happens if the Pistons get off to another slow start?

What happens if the Pistons lose? Does Reggie go back to being a starter?

Conversely, what happens if the Pistons win? Is Ish the starter for the remainder of the season? Is it a game-by-game answer?

No matter how you answer those questions, with nine games remaining after Orlando, we shouldn’t be asking them this late into the season.

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Projected Lineup

Detroit

Ish Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris

Orlando

Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Aaron Gordon

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Prediction

Assuming we rebound well, limit our turnovers and keep the Magic out of the paint, we should win.

- Grant Long mophatt1

Pistons 103, Magic 97