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Pistons vs. Magic preview: A must win or a must lose for both teams?

Today could be the true beginning of the tank race

Detroit Pistons v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

You know how corporations and the government love to dump bad news on 5 p.m. on Friday or at the end of the week so that people might not notice it? That is what the NBA is doing tonight with the vaunted matchup between the Detroit Pistons vs. the Orlando Magic. On one hand, perhaps it is an honor to be the only NBA game on the schedule. On the other, it’s a sad commentary that the NBA’s counter-programming of the opening night of the NCAA tournament is to simply dump the two worst teams in a face-off on NBA TV.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +3 per DraftKings

Analysis

The Magic and the Pistons are pretty evenly matched — both terrible, rebuilding teams with enough young pieces to intrigue and excite fans and even light up the score board when everything is humming. The Pistons are on the road and are going to be without Jerami Grant (right knee inflammation), and Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson, who have both been sidelined for a bit with various ailments.

They also might be missing star Cade Cunningham who is still battling a non-COVID illness and is listed as questionable (as is Rodney McGruder). My gut tells me Cunningham sits out, the starting lineup features Cory Joseph, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Livers and not much scoring punch. And then the bench unit is just pure, uncut madness with Saben Lee and Kelly Olynyk both playing defacto point guard and trying to set up Marvin Bagley for a bunch of crazy looks near the basket. I’m not saying it will work, but it’ll be something to watch.

Unless, of course, you’re busy watching the amateurs on this day of March Madness.

The Magic, not to be out-tanked on the injury report, have one-time Piston (sorta) Bol Bol out because of the foot that needed surgery that nixed the deal to Detroit from Denver in the first place. But they will also be missing important players — rookie Jalen Suggs and veteran Jonathan Isaac are out, and Wendell Carter Jr and Chuma Okeke are questionable.

The Magic are either in a hopeless tailspin or in desperate need of recapturing a little dignity after getting absolutely smashed by Kyrie Irving in and the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. They lost 150-108 as Irving had more than 40 points at halftime and ended the game with 60.

But at least anyone watching this game might get a good, long look at a Franz Wagner vs. Isaiah Livers battle of former University of Michigan standouts that looks well on their way to nice NBA careers (moreso Franz who has looked, frankly, amazing at times this season).

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (18-51)
Cory Joseph, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Livers, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart

Orlando Magic (18-52)
Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton, Franz Wagner, Mo Wagner(???), Mo Bamba

Question of the Day

Must win or must lose?

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