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Pistons vs. Magic Preview: Similar teams look to escape similar fates

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NBA: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the last two seasons, both the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons found themselves off to relatively surprising hot starts. Last year’s Pistons took a 14-8 head start, and finished the season going 25-35 over their final 60 games. The Magic began their 2017-18 campaign by winning eight of their first twelve games; they then managed to only scrape together seventeen more W’s come season’s end.

Both the Pistons and Magic are hoping to escape similar fates this year. Detroit’s 13-7 and Orlando’s 9-8 start this year were a bit higher than most outside observers expected, but it was clear that each team had a legitimate shot at making the playoffs - and both clubs are heavily invested at accomplishing that goal this season. The Magic would like to prove their nucleus of young talent is capable of winning games, while the Pistons are heavily invested in riding their All-Star (to-be) big men back to the playoffs for the first time together.

Game Vitals

When: 3:30 p.m. EST

Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL

Watch: FSN Detroit, NBA League Pass

Players to Watch

Nikola Vucevic

Vucevic is off to a career year, and is simultaneously in the process of shedding the ineffective, volume scoring big-man title that he’s seemed to have tattooed on him over the course of the last few seasons. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three. Vucevic has given Andre Drummond fits in the past, with his abundance of low post moves and ability to hit a reliable mid-range jumper. Now that he’s added a legit three-point shot to his arsenal, this should cause concern in the eye’s of Pistons fans.

Blake Griffin

Blake has been doing Blake all season long. He’s legitimately the little (big) engine that could (or could not, depending on his supporting cast), but without a productive game from Griffin, this team would have issues beating every team on any night. Over Griffin’s last five games, his numbers have taken a bit of a dip, as he’s averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists, while turning over the rock four times per game. Everyone knows the narrative - Blake needs help - but unfortunately for Detroit, they also need Blake to be some sort of superhuman/cyborg combo if the Pistons are going to escape with a win.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (16-17):
Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Orlando Magic (15-19):
D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic

Prediction

Pistons eek out a close one, 104-100.

Community Question

More Andre Drummond rebounds, or Detroit Pistons turnovers?