Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons (May 3, 2021): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Dwayne Bacon has continued to put in points and do his work as the Orlando Magic try to finish the season. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
Dwayne Bacon has continued to put in points and do his work as the Orlando Magic try to finish the season. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic battle the Detroit Pistons in a game that will have major lottery implications as the two worst teams in the East battle it out.

Orlando Magic (20-44) at Detroit Pistons (19-45)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Pistons by 1.5
Tickets: $47-$9,299 on StubHub
2021 Season Series: Magic 105, Pistons 96 in Orlando on Feb. 21; Pistons 105, Magic 93 in Orlando on Feb. 23; Tonight in Detroit

PaceOff. Rtg.Def. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR

OMD Prediction

The Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons are employing the same strategy right now. The Magic have a lot of players out with injuries and players who could possibly return that are out and increasingly looking like they are out for the season. The Magic have listed James Ennis out along with Terrence Ross, Chuma Okeke and Michael Carter-Williams. The Pistons are also playing a bit shorthanded and without a ton of veteran players — Wayne Ellington, Jerami Grant, Cory Joseph, Jahlil Okafor and Mason Plumlee are all out. Plumlee for rest.

The Pistons like the Magic will be shorthanded and are playing with a roster with just nine active players. Orlando knows that feeling all too well. So the question in this game will be which team is able to overcome all of this. Essentially: Who will execute with more energy and effort. That is where this game turns. The Magic have played well but they are liable for long stretches where they cannot solve defenses. The Pistons are the same way and to beat them requires an energetic defensive effort.

38. 102. 64. Prediction. 105

3 Keys To Watch

Rookie watch

If anyone wants to see rookies playing and getting a really good chance to display their growth in the final weeks of this season, this should be a fun game to watch. Neither the Orlando Magic nor the Detroit Pistons are particularly good at anything. And the Pistons’ strong play has gone the way of their veterans — been put on the shelf. They are overtly tanking in a way the Magic are not (or not as blatantly with Gary Harris still logging minutes).

Both teams have to be very pleased with their rookies. Cole Anthony is slowly gaining cult status for his postgame interviews. But he has earned those by finishing games strong. He hit clutch baskets in the Magic’s wins this week, leading a fourth-quarter comeback to upend the Memphis Grizzlies. He is averaging 16.4 points per game and 5.5 assists per game with 40.5-percent shooting from deep in his last 10 games. R.J. Hampton is starting to get comfortable out there too with a career-best 18 points.

The Pistons have their own guards coming into their own. Saddiq Bey has had some really strong showings throughout the year and is still a deadly shooter. He is averaging 13.8 points per game in his last 10 games. But his scoring can take an uptick with all those veterans out. Killian Hayes has been the real revelation since returning from injury. He is averaging 5.2 points and 6.4 assists per game in his last five games. His passing is a big threat that will be difficult for the Magic to deal with.

Second chances

After Saturday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Moritz Wagner said one of his goals in joining the Orlando Magic was to find joy in the game again. He dealt with injuries with the Washington Wizards as he had pockets of breaking out and then was moved to the Boston Celtics, who summarily waived him. Wagner is young enough at 24 to still contribute. And he has a good audition with the Magic. His 24 points on four made 3-pointers Saturday was a good showing for him.

This is one of the purposes tanking teams can give players. They slip through the cracks and get a chance to stick where there is opportunity. The teams that are not tanking for long find bargains and add players to their short-term future. Players like the Pistons’ Josh Jackson, who has reclaimed at least some of his potential with a solid season (although many of his offensive questions remain), and Frank Jackson. Jackson especially has played well since coming back from injury. He has 16.2 points per game in his last nine games.

Where is Wendell?

Wendell Carter has engendered a ton of excitement among Orlando Magic fans for his defensive potential and growing offensive game. The trade to Orlando seemed to rejuvenate the former seventh-overall pick. He gave the Magic a lot of defensive options they did not have before. But since returning from an ankle injury, Carter’s impact has noticeably waned.

In his last five games, he is averaging 7.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game on 34.9-percent shooting in just 24.0 minutes per game. This has been a drain on the offense as the Magic post a 94.6 offensive rating with him on the floor in that time. Even his defensive impact has been stunted as the team gives up 113.0 points per 100 possessions with him out there, even as the team’s defense has settled down some.

Next. Orlando Magic's climb back up will start with the basics. dark

The Magic are probably playing him out of necessity at this point and might still have him on a minute restriction. But he would be a good candidate to just shut down if he is feeling any ill effects of the injury.