In their last two games, the Orlando Magic have taken down two of their top competitors in the Eastern Conference. They may get a slight reprieve in their next contest.
The Magic visit the slumping Detroit Pistons on Sunday as they look to secure Stan Van Gundy a spot on the All-Star bench to coach the East.
Orlando (31-16) moved ahead of Atlanta to claim the Southeast Division lead following a 104-86 home victory over the Hawks on Saturday. The Magic, who had defeated the conference-leading Celtics on Thursday, shot 54.2 percent and held Atlanta to 39.5-percent shooting from the field.
“I wasn’t concerned about numbers (Saturday),” Howard said. “We just wanted to play aggressively at both ends. We’re trying to be more aggressive and for the most part, we did that.”
Another key to Orlando’s fifth win in six games was J.J. Redick(notes), who had a career-best seven assists to go along with eight points. Orlando had 20 assists to 11 turnovers after finishing with eight assists and 16 turnovers against Boston.
While the Magic have now won five straight at home, they’ve struggled on the road, losing 10 of 13. They also have only one win in their last 11 visits to Detroit and have been held below 95 points while dropping their last three games there.
With a win, not only would Orlando snap its losing streak at the Palace of Auburn Hills, but Van Gundy would also be named coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars.
Although the Pistons (15-30) and Magic split a pair of matchups in November, Detroit has fallen apart since, dropping 18 of its last 22. The Pistons have dropped four straight entering this contest, including a dreadful performance in a 92-65 home loss to Miami on Friday. They were outrebounded 52-25 and totaled 25 points over the second and third quarters.
“We obviously can’t stand pat with this kind of performance - there will have to be some changes somewhere,” Detroit coach John Kuester said. “We have to find a way to get 48 minutes of energy out of this team.”
The Pistons had hoped Gordon’s return could help ignite the offense, but they continued to struggle. Richard Hamilton(notes) shot 4 of 14 for eight points and Rodney Stuckey(notes), who came in averaging 19.3 points in his previous six games, scored a season-low four.
Hamilton missed both games against the Magic in November because of a sprained right ankle, but he averaged 30.0 points and 10.0 assists in two games against them last season.
Even with Hamilton, Detroit could have difficulty scoring against the Magic, who have held their last seven opponents to 93.4 points per game.