Injuries helped derail a once-promising season for the Orlando Magic, who are losers of nine in a row. The Magic will try to take advantage of another team that just had a key player go down with an injury when they host the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.
Center Nikola Vucevic, who underwent surgery to repair a broken hand on Tuesday, was the latest to go down for Orlando when he was injured on Saturday, but Evan Fournier came back from an ankle injury and at least provided an emotional boost in the 107-89 loss at Miami last time out. “We got a good bounce (from Fournier’s return) and we were surprised that he was going to play,” forward Marreese Speights told the team’s website. “He fought through the pain and came out there and played for his team. That’s what it’s all about - playing for your teammates and what we stand for.” Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson was diagnosed with a grade three ankle sprain on Wednesday and will be out six to eight weeks, landing a blow to a team that was beginning to roll with wins in five of its last six games. “It’s tough,” associate coach Bob Beyer told reporters. “It’s tough for him. He was playing really well. That’s a big loss for us. But now we’ve just got to go next man up and move on.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, FSN Florida (Orlando)
ABOUT THE PISTONS (19-14): “Next man up” likely means backup Ish Smith, who is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 assists in 20.1 minutes. Smith scored in double figures in each of the last three games and filled in capably while Jackson dealt with a knee injury last season, averaging 12.3 points and 6.3 assists in 32 starts. “It’s a role that he’s somewhat used to,” Beyer told reporters of Smith. “I think he feels more comfortable coming off the bench - that’s just him - but when called upon he’s one of those backup point guards that, because he’s played starter’s minutes in the past, it’s not going to be a huge adjustment for him.”
ABOUT THE MAGIC (11-24): The injured players are slowly beginning to make their way back, with Jonathan Isaac (ankle) joining Fournier on Tuesday and Aaron Gordon (calf) close to a return. The upheaval in the rotation is leading to some disjointed play, and Orlando committed 17 turnovers in Tuesday’s loss. “We turned the ball over, we were a little careless and we were impatient at times and not playing enough with the pass and guys trying to do too much on their own,” coach Frank Vogel told reporters. “But I was very proud of their effort and how hard they played. We fought throughout the game.”
1. Pistons SF Tobias Harris scored 30 points on 10-of-11 shooting, including 7-of-8 from 3-point range, in Tuesday’s 107-83 win over Indiana.
2. Orlando C Bismack Biyombo went 1-of-7 from the floor but collected 12 rebounds and five blocks while starting in place of Vucevic on Tuesday.
3. Jackson scored 17 points in a 114-110 home win over Orlando on Dec. 17.
PREDICTION: Pistons 106, Magic 101