Since coming over from Orlando last month, Tobias Harris has been a key contributor to the Detroit Pistons’ push toward the playoffs.
Facing his former team for the first time since that trade, Harris and the Pistons try for a fourth straight victory Wednesday night against the visiting Magic.
Detroit (37-34) acquired Harris for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova on Feb. 16 in a move intended to provide a proven scorer for this season’s playoff push and a young building block for the future. On his third team in five seasons, the small forward who turns 24 in July signed a $64 million, four-year deal last summer that now belongs to the Pistons.
"God closes one door to open up another," he posted on Instagram at the time of the trade.
After breaking in with Milwaukee, Harris played parts of four seasons with the Magic (29-41) and averaged a career-high 17.1 points in 2014-15. That slipped to 13.7 in 49 games before the trade, but he’s averaging 16.6 points and shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range in 17 games with Detroit.
More importantly, the Pistons are 10-5 since Harris joined the starting lineup Feb. 22. Though he’s shot 40 percent in the last three contests, Harris had five of his 13 points in the fourth quarter Monday before Andre Drummond’s tip-in with 2 seconds left gave Detroit a 92-91 victory over the Bucks.
One percentage point behind Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Detroit improved to 3-1 on a nine-game homestand despite its last three opponents shooting 52.3 percent.
"Every game from here on out are big games for us," Harris said. "We need every single one, win or lose it’s going to affect us and it’s going to affect the seeding so we need every game."
Detroit, which won four straight on two other occasions, has averaged 115.8 points while taking the last four from Orlando by an average of 18.3. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 21 and Drummond added 17 with 12 boards in a 115-89 home rout of the Magic on Jan. 4.
Jennings had 17 points with six assists for Detroit in that contest, but has averaged 7.5 and 4.1 assists over 17 games while Orlando has gone 6-12 since the deal. He’s totaled 13 points and gone 6 of 20 from the field in the last three games.
Jennings has started five straight but could return to the bench soon after fellow point guard Elfrid Payton played 31 minutes in Monday’s 107-96 loss at Boston – his second game since missing five with an elbow injury.
"I just hope to continue to get back into the flow of things," said Payton, who sat out the first meeting with Detroit because of a ankle issue.
Ilyasova has averaged 8.1 points and 5.7 rebounds all off the bench in 17 games since the trade.
Victor Oladipo scored 25 points Monday but the Magic shot 41.9 percent and went 5 of 18 from beyond the arc to lose their fourth in a row and eighth in 10. Though the Magic continue to slide, Oladipo has averaged 27.8 points in five games and shot 55.8 percent in his last 10 contests.
"Just going out there playing, playing as hard as I can," he said. "Letting the game come to me."
Oladipo has totaled 41 points on 16-of-29 shooting in the last two at Detroit.