Tonight at 6:00pm EST The Pistons will be hosting the Orlando Magic at the Palace. The Magic are on one days rest after beating the Sixers on Friday, and the Pistons are on one days rest after beating the Hawks.
The Magic have, somewhat predictably, been pretty awful. They have been able to win some more games as of late, but they still stand with an offensive efficiency of just 96.3, and a defensive efficiency of 101. At the very least the defense is respectable, but their offense is literally the worst in basketball. The Magic look a bit different than they did the last time the Pistons played them, as their lineups and rotations have been swapped up a bit. DJ Augustine is starting now, and he is largely the same player he was with the Pistons as a potentially electric scorer who can shoot, and a respectable facilitator who can't really defend anyone. Evan Fournier has pretty clearly come out as being their best player and is averaging just under 18 points per game and doing it very efficiently, while also doing a decent job of passing the ball a bit as well. It would not be totally incorrect to say that Fournier is damn near the only thing keeping the Magic offense from totally falling apart. Aaron Gordon is starting at SF and is, um, struggling a bit with that. He is still a highly disruptive defender and is very difficult to box out for most small forwards, but he still has learning to do defensively, and has been pretty miserable offensively. Serge Ibaka is still a good defender, although he hasn't been as good as I'm sure the Magic had hoped, although 1.8 blocks per game is very good no matter how you want to spin it. Offensively he has been solid, scoring a very efficient 14.5 points per game and doing it in a decent variety of spot up looks as well as post ups and generally creating for himself. Bismack Biyombo has been starting at center lately, and he is a good defender a rebounder, but he has been pretty miserable offensively. Essentially the new starting lineup is an attempt to double down on just trying to out defend everyone, and the Gordon/Ibaka/Biyombo front line is a formidable one, even if the results have not always been there. Elfrid Payton is now coming off the bench, he is shooting and generally scoring very poorly but he can still play defense and pass. Jeff Green has been awful at pretty much everything this year, Nik Vucevic is a skilled offensive player who can do a little bit of everything but doesn't play much defense. Jodie Meeks played his first game of the year in their last game, and he can shoot, Mario Hezonja is getting DNPs.
This is a team that has really struggled in the early going on both ends of the floor, but they have recently started to shore up the defense a bit at least, and they did manage to find enough wins that if they can figure out how to play offense soon they could still salvage the season.
Matchups to watch:
REGGIE JACKSON: SVG said that Reggie will play tonight with a minutes restriction. Hopefully I can find time to do a post fully looking at how he changes the dynamic of the team. But for now, it will be interesting to just see how he looks and what exactly the minutes restriction ends up being. He will almost certainly be at least a little rusty, but that is ok. Just seeing him on the floor again will be great.
Mobias vs. Gordon/Ibaka: I truthfully think that Mobias is better than the Magic forwards. However the sheer size advantage that the Magic pair has could end up giving the Pistons some trouble, and Aaron Gordon crashing the offensive glass in particular has been an issue for the Pistons.
KCP vs. Fournier: Evan Fournier is basically the Magic's offensive life blood right now, and while he is a bit bigger than KCP, he is not the sort of physical guy that KCP usually struggles with. If KCP can lock him down (like he did last game) then the Magic will be in serious trouble, and on the other side, Fournier is not the best guy at dodging screens and whatnot so KCP could get a decent dosage of open shots. Speaking of which...
KCP vs. Not regressing: KCP has played very well offensively the last several games, in his young career this is usually the time where he decides to become Josh Smith for the next week or so. If he can continue to stay within the offense and avoid bad shots he should be able to keep it up, especially since Reggie's return should result in the ball being in his hands less (and ergo him trying to create his shot less.)
Andre vs. Big front line guys: Whether it is Biyombo or Vucevic, Andre will be going up against pretty formidable in different ways. Vuc is difficult to guard, Biyombo is difficult to score on and keep off the glass. Andre should of course have an advantage over both of them, but it won't be easy pickings. Also with Andre, as with KCP, now that Reggie is back hopefully he keeps up his recent trend of fewer post up touches and more other stuff. The offense just works better that way. (To be clear, he can post up some, just not as much as he has at times this year.)
Baynes vs. Vuc: With Vuc coming off the he will likely get some time against Baynes. Baynes has often gotten a little bit of a bad wrap lately, but there is one thing that is absolutely true. He struggles to guard skilled offensive players, and Vuc is a skilled offensive player.
Ish and the bench mob: This might not be very applicable to this game depending on how many minutes Reggie gets to play, but Ish should get to spend time with the bench mob for the first time this year. Hopefully he can display the same sort of chemistry with them that he did with the starters.
Pistons vs. Sound defense: The Magic suck at offense. The Pistons have generally been good defensively. If the Pistons play focused and with effort the Magic should mostly be totally incapable of scoring. The Pistons just need to not give the Magic free points.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Reggie looks good right off the bat.
The Magic can't score. At all.
Evan Fournier is missing lots of bad shots that KCP is forcing him to take.
Run for the hills if:
Jodie Meeks revenge game.
Aaron Gordon is getting lots of offensive rebounds.
DJ Augustine revenge game.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Reggie plays 20 minutes, has at least one super dope dunk that gets everyone super hype.
Jodie Meeks scores 30 points.
KCP only scores like 12 points, but does it efficiently.
The Magic offense doesn't really work other than Jodie, Pistons win an easy game in the return of Reggie.
What do you think? How will Reggie look? Can Meeks provide a similar spark to the Magic he gave the Pistons a couple of years ago?