Today at 4:00pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the Orlando Magic at the LCA. The Pistons are on one day of rest and their 3rd in 4 nights after beating the Pacers on Friday. The Magic are on one day of rest after losing to the Blazers.
After a promising start to the season, the Magic have totally fallen apart largely back into the pits of sorrow they have largely occupied the last half decade. They sport the 18th best offense in the NBA at 103.6 points per 100 possessions, while sporting the 23rd defense at 107.1 points per 100 possessions.
The one bit of good news that has carried over from the start of the season is that Aaron Gordon looks like he is probably the real deal. He is scoring 18.3 points per game, shooting the ball well, and is an athletic freak who knows how to play defense. Evan Fournier is alongside him as the lead dog on the team, Fournier is a sweet shooting wing player who is something akin to the best version of what Luke Kennard could become. The bad news however is that both of them will be out for this game with injury, as is Terrence Ross. Nikola Vucevic still doesn't really play a lick of defense but he can score in a variety of ways and has finally extended his range to beyond the three point line with at least some success and he also is a good passer. Jonathon Simmons is still doing his thing as a swiss army knife type of player and is very good. Elfrid Payton can pass and is a good defender and finisher inside but his jump shot is still the source of a lot of frustration for the Magic. D.J. Augustin is still doing his thing as a electric scorer but not a ton else. Jonathan Isaac is the rookie big man who actually looks pretty promising as a super bouncy and energetic player but he has had some injury issues. Mismack Biyombo should make Pistons fans feel better about some of the contracts they have and he is off the bench and plays some defense and he can rebound. Shelvin Mack is around as a totally unremarkable guard, and Marreese Speights is a shooting guard in center form.
This team still has a chance to be a decent team if they can get healthy. But in their current form they are quite un-threatening and struggle with a lot of things. But if Gordon and Fournier can keep playing this well (and also avoid some of the supposed friction between the two about getting shots up) then it could be the first time in a while that the Magic have some real hope for building forwards. Even if it isn't a great one, a pair of dynamic wing scorers who are both young is not a bad starting place.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. Vucevic: Story as old as Drummond's career at this point. Drummond way outclasses Vuc in physical attributes and should be able to dominate the paint on both ends, but Vuc has the perimeter skills on offense to give Drummond and the Pistons trouble. Especially given the injuries, Vuc is by far their #1 option for buckets and if Drummond can keep him contained the Magic will really struggle to create points.
Reggie Bullock vs. Keeping it up: I'm still unsure about him starting over Stanley, but he finally seemed to have found his offensive rhythm in the last couple of games. If he can do that (hit shots, move off the ball, whip smart passing, good defense) consistently then it will be hard to complain too much about him starting.
Reggie Jackson vs. Getting right: It's been a while since he's had a good game. He seemed to get back into better defensive shape in the last game against the Pacers, but rumors that he may be having health issues again are starting to crop up. If he could go out and score 20 some points on a flurry of drives and floaters tonight it would put a lot of Pistons fans at ease.
Tobias Harris vs. Not being terrible: Ho baby he had a rough couple of games the last few nights. Without Gordon the Magic don't really have a great option for guarding him and Vucevic is not going to be a problem at the rim, so if Tobias could have a good game it would be nice.
Pistons vs. Proving it: I said it during the losing streak, but losing a bunch of close games to good teams isn't a big deal (Denver game notwithstanding) as long as they turned around and beat up on some bad teams. They have won the first two of the stretch, and if they get this one too then I'm pretty comfortable with where the team is at.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
The Pistons are scoring crazy easily out of actions by just abusing Vucevic in the paint.
Jackson and/or Harris get going.
Vucevic is struggling to score.
Run for the hills if:
Vucevic starts to rain threes.
The Pistons are struggling to score, because this Magic unit is not good defensively.
The Pistons just generally look slow and out of sorts.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Tobias Harris scores a lot of points.
One of Drummond or Jackson has a huge game. (Depends on whether Vuc opts to get dunked on by Drummond or give up layups to Jackson)
The Magic struggle to get any sort of offense going.
The Pistons get solid contributions from all areas and cruise to a comfortable victory.
Pistons 113 – Magic 100.
What do you think? Can Jackson get right? Can Tobias get back on track?