The Orlando Magic need to find a way to win on the road if they hope to end their three-year playoff drought.
It won’t be easy, though, as they visit the Eastern Conference-leading Detroit Pistons on Wednesday in the first game of a home-and-home series.
The Magic (27-27)—who have not been to the playoffs since 2003—got off to a fast start, winning they 14 of their first 19 games and going 7-4 in road games in that span.
Since then, not much has gone right for Orlando on the road. The Magic are just 2-13 away from Amway Arena since Dec. 6, and are now tied with Miami for the final playoff spot in the East.
They lost to New York 100-94 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, their fifth straight road loss. Orlando has lost five of its last seven games overall, and the Knicks have pulled within three games of the Magic.
“This might be one of the teams we battle for one of the positions for the playoffs,” Magic forward Dwight Howard said.
Although Orlando has been slumping lately, Howard has played well.
Howard had 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds on Tuesday, and is averaging 25.8 points—while shooting an amazing 79.2 percent—and 11.7 rebounds in his last six games.
The All-Star scored 25 points and grabbed 10 boards in the Magic’s 97-83 loss to the Pistons (33-19) on Dec. 8, and is averaging 19.5 points and 14.0 rebounds in his last four games against them.
But Howard’s impressive numbers have rarely led to wins against Detroit, as Orlando has lost eight of its last 10 games to the Pistons. The Magic also have had little luck winning at the Palace of Auburn Hills, losing four straight, and nine of 11 there.
While the Magic are dropping in the standings and struggling on the road, the Pistons have won six of their last seven home games and are coming off an 84-83 win at Milwaukee on Tuesday for their eighth win in the last nine games.
The Pistons have been winning with their stellar defense as they’ve held seven of their last nine opponents to 90 points or less.
“We stay poised down the stretch no matter what the score is, no matter who the opponent is,” guard Chauncey Billups said. “We get what we want.”
Billups scored 19 points on Tuesday, and is averaging 13.8 points—nearly four below his season average—in his last five games.
The two-time All-Star has been terrific against the Magic lately as he scored a season-high 31 points on 11-of-16 shooting in the Pistons’ December road win over them. Billups is averaging 26.0 points and has made 10-of-19 from beyond the 3-point arc in his last four games against them.
Richard Hamilton, who averages a team-high 21.5 points, scored just 12 against the Bucks, and said he injured his right hand in Sunday’s All-Star game and it remains a “little sore.” Hamilton had 14 points and a season-high 10 rebounds against the Magic in December for his first double-double of the season.
These teams complete their home-and-home series Friday in Orlando.