Detroit Pistons (-1, 194.5 o/u) at Orlando Magic
Coming off what may be their most impressive win of the season over the faltering Cleveland Cavaliers, the Detroit Pistons (7-23, 4-10 away) take on the Orlando Magic (13-21, 4-9 home) tonight at the Amway Center.
The Pistons recently parted ways with second-leading scorer Josh Smith. Smith had signed a four-year, $54 million contract with the Pistons in the summer of 2013, but had failed to live up to the team’s expectations this year, averaging just 13.1 PPG on 39% shooting (including 24% from three) and a woeful 47% from the stripe.
Since the surprise move, the Pistons have gone 2-0; before crushing the Cavs (103-80) on Sunday, Detroit downed the Pacers (119-109) on Friday. For head coach Stan Van Gundy, it’s a new season now that Smith’s dead weight has been jettisoned.
“I think Friday night was our best game of the year, and [Sunday] was better,” Van Gundy said. “So, we’ve played our two best games of the year back-to-back. But we’ll see. It’s just two games. We’ve got a long way to go, but [Sunday] was a step forward.”
Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond have both stepped up in a big way in the last two games. The former scored 25 points (including going 5 for 9 behind the arc) on Sunday, while the latter had 16 points and 17 rebounds.
“Everyone just has a free mind, no pressure,” said Jennings. “We’re just going out there and playing basketball.”
As for Van Gundy’s former team, the Magic have experienced an up-and-down season. Coming off a four-game losing streak, Orlando has won three of its last four, the most recent of which was a 102-101 win against the Heat last night. Second-year guard Victor Oladipo, whom Orlando is already looking to for leadership, sealed the victory with four points in the final minute.
The emergence of Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who has scored 48 points over the last two games, has also been key to the recent turnaround.
Orlando head coach Jacque Vaughn liked what he saw from his team against its instate rival last night. “We showed some toughness,” said Vaughn.
It’s that toughness that will make tonight’s game close. Look for this game to be a tight and somewhat defensive battle, especially with Orlando playing the second of a back-to-back. That’s why the under (194.5) is the play.
(Photo credit: Mike (Flickr: (2013-12-21) Kings at Magic 62) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)