The Detroit Pistons have recovered nicely from their struggles at the start of December but now will be forced to play on without starting point guard Reggie Jackson.
Winners of five of their last six games, the Pistons will be without Jackson for the foreseeable future Thursday night when they visit the Orlando Magic, who are trying to stop their second nine-game losing streak of the season.
Jackson, who is averaging 14.6 points and 5.5 assists, was diagnosed with a Grade-3 sprained right ankle, which will keep him out six-to-eight weeks. Eight weeks from Thursday is Feb. 22 and by then the Pistons will have played 57 games and be two weeks past the trade deadline.
Jackson was injured in the third quarter of an otherwise good night on Tuesday for the Pistons, who shot 50 percent in a 107-83 rout of the Indiana Pacers.
Jackson set a season high with 13 assists while Tobias Harris produced 30 points on 10 of 11 shooting.
Harris never cooled down, scoring 26 of his 30 points in the first half, and the Pistons continued to play well after starting this month seven straight victories.
Harris made all but one of his 11 field-goal attempts in 29 minutes. He had 21 points in the opening quarter, when the Pistons established a 21-point lead and maintained a double-digit advantage most of the way.
“Throughout the game, I was getting some good looks, open looks,” said Harris, who hit a career-high seven triples. “I just didn’t want to rush any or take any bad shots. I wanted to keep us playing in a good flow because I thought we were really moving the ball well.”
Harris and the rest of the Pistons will get their offense facilitated by Ish Smith for the time being. Smith started the 20 games Jackson missed at the start of last season recovering from left knee surgery and played the final 17 minutes Tuesday while finishing with 12 points and three assists.
“It’s tough,” associate head coach Bob Beyer told reporters at Wednesday’s practice. “It’s tough for him. He was playing really well. That’s a big loss for us. But now we’ve just got to go next man up and move on.”
Orlando can relate to injury problems of its own that have derailed a surprising 8-4 start. They are experiencing multiple nine-game losing streaks for the first time since the 2013-14 season and are 3-20 in their last 23 games since Nov. 10.
Orlando played its first game Tuesday after starting center Nikola Vucevic underwent surgery on his left hand and the Magic struggled to replace his 17.4 points. Bismack Biyombo started for Vucevic and grabbed 12 rebounds in 29 minutes but shot 1 of 7 during Tuesday’s 107-89 loss at Miami.
It was Orlando’s sixth double-digit loss during the nine-game skid and its 14th double-digit defeat since the 8-4 start.
Aaron Gordon also missed his fifth straight game with a strained right calf and the Magic are 1-8 in the nine games he has missed this season. Gordon, whose 18.3 points lead the Magic, took part in Tuesday’s shootaround to get upgraded to questionable and practiced fully Wednesday.
If Gordon plays, he will be the second player to return from injury in the last two games, which serves as good news for the struggling Magic.
Evan Fournier returned from missing eight games with a sprained right ankle and scored 14 points but it was not enough as the Magic blew an 11-point lead and were outscored 60-32 in the last 20 minutes as they committed 10 turnovers during the third quarter.
“We turned the ball over, we were a little careless and we were impatient at times and not playing enough with the pass and guys trying to do too much on their own,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. “But I was very proud of their effort and how hard they played. We fought throughout the game.”
Orlando’s closest loss during this skid was a four-point loss at Detroit on Dec. 17. The Magic gave up 17 3-pointers in a 114-110 loss and trailed by 24 before 19 straight points in the fourth to make the final score respectable.