Preview: Short-handed Magic hit road, visit Pistons
TV: FOX Sports Florida
Time: Pregame coverage begins at 3:30 p.m.
Back-to-back road victories have the Detroit Pistons feeling a lot better about themselves. They’ll try to stretch their modest winning streak against an opponent missing some key players.
Detroit snapped a seven-game losing streak by defeating Atlanta on Thursday and Indiana on Friday. The Pistons return home for a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Orlando Magic, who have lost four straight and will likely be without their top scorers, forward Aaron Gordon and guard Evan Fournier.
The Pistons (16-13) outscored the Pacers 34-20 in the third quarter, then held off Indiana’s late charge for a 104-98 victory.
“At the start of the season we were one of the best defensive teams in the league, then we went on a seven-game losing streak and we kind of lost our edge, so we wanted to get back to the drawing board and get back to basics,” Detroit swingman Reggie Bullock said. “Everybody was happy in the locker room and now we’re off (Saturday) and we play again Sunday and we have to try to keep it up when we play back home.”
Bullock logged 33 minutes and scored 15 points, both season highs. He was inserted into the lineup at small forward three games ago in place of Stanley Johnson.
Detroit played without shooting guard Avery Bradley, who was a late scratch because of a right adductor strain. The Pistons are hopeful that Bradley can play against the Magic.
Without Bradley, the Pistons used a combination of Bullock, Johnson, rookie Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway at the wing positions.
“I would’ve taken a 15-point win but I think to be good you have to be able to win in different ways,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Some nights it’s a little tougher. We had a tough fourth quarter, and we were able to just grind it out.”
Van Gundy reached a milestone, notching his 500th coaching victory.
“Number one, it’s about this team coming off a seven-game losing streak and then going on the road in a back-to-back and winning both,” he said. “The other thing is it’s just a number, it’s pretty trivial. It’s no big deal.”
The absence of Gordon is a big deal for the Magic. He suffered a right calf strain in Orlando’s 95-88 home loss to Portland on Friday.
Gordon was enjoying a breakout season, averaging 18.3 points and 8.0 rebounds before suffering a concussion that forced him to miss two games. The game against the Trail Blazers was his first since he was cleared to play.
“He’s extremely frustrated that he had missed the last couple of games with the concussion,” coach Frank Vogel said. “I can assure you that he’s even more frustrated now.”
Without Gordon, the Magic (11-19) rely even more on 7-footer Nikola Vucevic (17.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.2 apg). He’ll match up against Detroit’s best player, Andre Drummond (14.0 ppg, 15.2 rpg, 3.9 apg), who has also become a bigger part of his team’s offense as a playmaker.
Fournier (18.3 ppg) is expected to miss his fifth consecutive game with a right ankle sprain.
“We’ve got plenty of capable guys in uniform to go out and compete and get W’s,” Vogel said. “That’s got to be the challenge for the Detroit game.”