Pistons, Magic looking for spark to jumpstart their seasons

In a few months, the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons could be competing for a big prize. Right now, both teams are just searching for a victory.

The teams are neck and neck for the worst record in the NBA, which will increase their chances of winning the draft lottery, as the Pistons did last year. They’ll match up on the court this Saturday in Detroit.

Orlando brings a seven-game losing streak into the game. The Magic haven’t tasted victory since Dec. 22, when they defeated the Atlanta Hawks.

They already have lost three games during the new calendar year. They took Boston to overtime on Sunday before falling 116-111, then dropped a four-point decision at Chicago the next night. They lost at home to Philadelphia 116-106 on Wednesday.

Guard Cole Anthony returned from an ankle injury that kept him out of action for five games. He had 26 points and seven assists in the latest loss. He left the court with a positive attitude.

“The reason I’m honestly not in bad spirits right now is I have so much more work to do. We as a team have so much more work to do. So I’m just super, super excited for that,” Anthony said. “We’re all so young, we have a bunch of time just to build and we’re given the opportunity now to get all the ugly out. That’s one of the good parts about this, that we have a chance to figure this stuff out, play through our mistakes.”

Anthony appeared to reinjure the ankle during the third quarter but quickly returned to action.

“He’s a tough kid. He’s a tough, resilient kid,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “He’s a competitive young man who wants to fight and win. I was nervous when he went down with the ankle, but he bounced back up, and that’s the competitive spirit that he just continues to show and that’s the competitive spirit our entire team continues to thrive with.”

Their trip to Detroit begins a stretch where the Magic play four of five games on the road. Rookie lottery pick Franz Wagner, who played collegiately at Michigan, scored 19 points in the first meeting on Oct. 30 but the Pistons emerged with a 110-103 win.

Detroit pulled off a road upset against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday but the euphoria didn’t last long. The Pistons were blown out by the Charlotte Hornets, 140-111, on Wednesday, then got clobbered by the Memphis Grizzlies, 118-88, on Thursday.

Many of the team’s rotation players returned this week after exiting the league’s health and safety protocol. Coach Dwane Casey said he felt the busy schedule contributed to the past two defeats.

“Our fuel meter was down,” he said. “The energy level was down from top to bottom. Guys coming off the bench, guys starting. It really showed in our shooting. Everything was short.”

The top pick in last summer’s draft, Cade Cunningham, went scoreless in the second half against the Grizzlies. Saddiq Bey, the only starter who avoided getting sick, shot 5-for-22 from the field over the past two games after carrying a large offensive load the previous nine games.

Casey said he hopes a day off will get his team’s offense going.

“We’ve got to get the gas tank refueled,” Casey said. “Get our energy back, go back home and compete from there.”

–Field Level Media