Magic continue playoff push against anemic Pistons

Fri Feb 23 4:01pm ET
Field Level Media

The Orlando Magic are not only threatening to make the postseason for the first time in four seasons, they may not even require the play-in tournament to reach that goal.

The Magic have won seven of their last nine games, including a 116-109 road victory over Cleveland on Thursday in their return from the All-Star break.

Orlando's 31-25 record puts it in the mix for a top-six finish in the conference.

The Magic are on pace to finish with more regular-season victories than they've had since 2010-11, when they finished with a 52-30 record.

Orlando gets a chance to fatten its win total against the league's worst team on Saturday night. They'll visit Detroit to play the Pistons, who have won just eight games.

The Magic's latest victory was a product of strong bench performances. The five reserves they used against the Cavaliers combined for 63 points, led by Moritz Wagner's 22 points and seven rebounds.

"The real teams start playing now," Wagner said. "I think as a young team that hasn't really been there yet, we need to embrace that and understand that. The teams that want to go somewhere, this is the time they improve the most. It's a mentality that we have to bring every day."

Orlando needed the bench to come to the rescue on a night when its two stars struggled from the field. All-Star Paolo Banchero scored 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting and committed four turnovers.

Wagner's brother, Franz, had 14 points, seven below his average, and made three turnovers.

"Our bench unit was fantastic," Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. "They came out ready to compete defensively early on, and there is a high level of trust they have with each other."

This will be the third of four meetings between Orlando and Detroit. The Magic easily disposed of Detroit in the first matchup, as Franz Wagner had 27 points in a 123-91 thrashing on Dec. 8. He erupted to match his career-best of 38 points in a 111-99 victory on Feb. 4 as Orlando pulled away in the fourth quarter.

In typical fashion, the Pistons played from behind virtually the entire way in their first game since the break. They lost at Indiana 129-115 on Thursday in a game that the Pacers led by as many as 31 points.

Indiana had a 72-43 halftime lead. Detroit showed some life in the second half, including a 45-point third quarter, but the deficit was too large.

"You're hoping you get the juice right away. We didn't get it until the second half," coach Monty Williams said. "The carryover from one session to the next is what we're looking for and it just wasn't there from a communication standpoint. I thought we had a number of situations where we didn't communicate and they hit a lot of shots. We turned it over 11 times in the first half and only four in the second and you can see the difference in our production."

Cade Cunningham led the Pistons with 30 points and eight assists. However, the early mistakes made the second-half rally a moot point.

"Turnovers have killed us all year, and these last 30 games we need to take stuff from (Thursday) and finish the season strong," Cunningham said.


ORL LogoOrlando Magic
DET LogoDetroit Pistons

Sat Feb 24 8:00pm ET



Fri Apr 19

NBA: Bulls @ Heat
Without Jimmy Butler, Heat look to eliminate Bulls