The Orlando Magic aim to build on a strong two-game win streak with a pair of games against the Eastern Conference’s worst team in the Detroit Pistons.
Orlando Magic (12-18) vs. Detroit Pistons (8-21)
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For a long time the Orlando Magic could take solace that there was at least one team in the Eastern Conference playing worse than them. But that did not mean the Detroit Pistons were not in a worse way.
That did not mean they still did not have a potent attack. Jerami Grant has been one of the biggest revelations of the season and a dynamic wing scorer. Saddiq Bey snuck into the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award as a rookie with his ability to shoot from deep. But consistency is the issue. They do not have a lot they can count on every night.
The Magic are playing their best since the Markelle Fultz injury. They picked up two impressive wins and their defense is starting to come around. Orlando has to find a way to match the size and speed from Grant. But the Pistons are not a great 3-point shooting team and if the Magic play with the intensity they have been playing, they are the clear favorites.
3 Keys To Watch
Power Forward Rotation
The focus of the Orlando Magic’s defense should be on Jerami Grant. The young power forward is having a career season, averaging 23.5 points per game and a 50.8-percent effective field goal percentage. The one area where the Magic probably have some weakness is at power forward. The Magic are still figuring out something that works there.
Orlando has reshuffled its rotation to expand to 11 players. That is partly to work players back from injury. But the expanded rotation has worked. Even the change to the starting lineup worked. Khem Birch made his first start of the season and played well with Nikola Vucevic. But what that did was free up more minutes for Chuma Okeke and Al-Farouq Aminu. Both have played well in that role.
And their defensive potential should slow down Grant some. But that is all potential. Birch can struggle with more mobile wings. Okeke and Aminu are both still coming back from injury. While both have looked good, this will be a bigger test for them.
The Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons are two of the worst shooting teams in the league by the numbers. The Magic currently rank 22nd in the league in 3-point shooting at 35.3-percent. The Pistons are worst at 35.2-percent, 24th in the league.
But both teams are shooting better these days. In their last five games, the Magic are making 39.1-percent of their 3-pointers (ninth in the league!). The Pistons are making 33.9-percent. That is at least a small improvement for them. And they can get hot.
Orlando has relied heavily on the team’s 3-point shooting to win games of late. It has helped keep the team afloat even as the offense continues to scuttle. The 3-pointer is the great equalizer indeed. The Magic will need to keep hitting from deep. But who knows if this is the new normal.
The NBA All-Star reserves will be announced Tuesday. Coaches have until Monday to turn their votes and decide who will represent the conference in Atlanta in early March. It is never particularly clear how serious coaches take these votes — or who actually does the voting, it definitely varies from coach to coach. But essentially Nikola Vucevic has one more game to make a statement.
He certainly made a huge statement in Friday’s game, posting a 30-point, 16-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in leading the Orlando Magic in a come-from-behind-win over the Golden State Warriors. The 13-point comeback started when Vucevic re-entered the game with about eight minutes to play.
Vucevic has one more game to make his statement for his second All-Star bid. He is certainly deserving of it already.