Pistons-Magic Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 09, 2012
The Detroit Pistons took advantage of the absence of Orlando's top three scorers last week to extend the Magic's misery, but they won't be catching them quite so short-handed this time. Even if Orlando isn't completely at full strength, it may finally at least have everyone on the same page. Coming off their first win in nearly two weeks, the Magic will have Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson - and perhaps Ryan Anderson - back Monday night as they try to avoid a fourth straight loss to the visiting Pistons. Orlando (33-23) didn't have Howard, Nelson or Anderson in Tuesday's 102-95 loss at Detroit - its fourth straight - but rock bottom came two days later. Following Stan Van Gundy's Thursday morning revelation that he knew Howard had asked management to fire him, the Magic looked disjointed and disinterested that night in a 96-80 loss to New York. The team spent the next two days doing damage control, and while Saturday's 88-82 win at Philadelphia was hardly a thing of beauty - Orlando shot 36.3 percent - it seemed to at least quell the organizational chaos. Van Gundy, who said following Friday's practice he was ready to move on, certainly felt Saturday's performance was a step in the right direction. "This is the best I've felt about this team the entire year,'' he said. Howard, who was held to eight points and had five turnovers in the loss to the Knicks, missed 10 of 14 shots Saturday but still finished with 20 points and 22 rebounds. "We really needed this win," Howard, who missed the first two games in April with back spasms, told the Magic's official website. "We had to come out and play as hard as we can. We're going to keep believing." Howard's shots haven't been falling consistently, and neither have Nelson's. The point guard, who missed Tuesday's visit to Detroit with a sore left calf, is 5 for 26 over the past two games - 1 for 14 from inside the 3-point line. It's unclear if Anderson will be ready Monday after missing the past three games with a sprained ankle, but Orlando would certainly love to have him to spread the floor. The Magic have averaged 82.5 points and shot 40.7 percent in the four games he's missed this season - 12.3 points fewer and 3.7 percent lower than in the 52 he's played. Detroit (21-35), though, has had Orlando's number lately with or without Anderson. The Pistons have won three straight in the series - two this season - as Ben Gordon has averaged 20.0 points on 51.2 percent shooting. Gordon had 18 in last week's win against the Magic and 13 two days later in a 99-94 win over Washington, but has since been held to 15 points total in road losses to Atlanta and Miami. Detroit had shot 52.1 percent in its previous four games before being held to 37.3 percent in Sunday's 98-75 loss at Miami. Nineteen turnovers didn't help. "They got all of the shots they wanted,'' said rookie Brandon Knight, who scored a team-high 16. "It was easy for them. We had turnovers, missed shots, and it all led to the lead piling up.'' The Pistons, who have shot at least 50 percent in both wins this season against the Magic, fell to 11-32 when they don't hit at least half their shots.
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