Pistons meet Magic in battle for NBA Draft positioning

NBA

The seemingly meaningless matchup between the Orlando Magic and host Detroit Pistons on Monday could have major long-term implications.

Detroit (19-45) has the worst record in the Eastern Conference, just behind Orlando (20-44). They’re two of at least six NBA teams that could finish in the bottom three, which would improve their chances of getting the top pick in the draft lottery.

The Pistons have dropped five of their last six but play seven of their last eight games at home, where they have recorded 12 of their victories. The Magic have sunk in the standings since dealing several of their starters at the trade deadline and going into full rebuild mode.

Detroit held out a good chunk of its rotation players due to rest or minor injuries in a 107-94 loss at Charlotte on Saturday. Leading scorer Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Cory Joseph, Wayne Ellington, Hamidou Diallo and Jahlil Okafor sat out.

The four players they added in last year’s draft — Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee — receiving plenty of playing time. Bey knocked down five 3-pointers while scoring 22 points. He’s made five or more 3s on 10 occasions this season.

“He’s going to be a solid pro for a long, long time,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s a guy you can build your team around.”

Hayes had 10 points and six assists but also committed four turnovers.

“He didn’t play well at all in the first half,” Casey said. “We talked about it at halftime. He picked it up, and I thought he played a solid second half.

“I thought he was cerebral in the fourth quarter, made some kickouts and made some plays. This experience is going to pay off. It’s not paying off now. It hurts. It’s painful, taking these losses, but it’s going to bear fruit at this time next year.”

Stewart, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds against Dallas in the Pistons’ last home game, was limited to nine points and two rebounds due to foul trouble.

“That kind of took our spirit,” Casey said. “He’s our spirit out there on the floor.”

Orlando has won two of its last three games, including a 112-111 thriller over Memphis on Saturday.

Rookie guard Cole Anthony scored 15 of his career-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning 3-pointer in the final second.

“Crunch time, I want that ball,” Anthony said. “I want to go get it for my team. Whether that means making the right play to get it to someone else for them to get a bucket or that means going and taking and making a big shot. I just want to get that W for the team.”

Recent addition Moritz Wagner had a season-high 24 points in his third game since signing with the franchise. The Magic were down by 20 points midway through the third quarter.

“Great heart and showed a lot of character,” acting coach Ty Corbin said. “They stuck together, stayed with the game plan and picked it up a little bit when things didn’t look well. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves.”

Corbin is filling in for Steve Clifford, who has tested positive for COVID-19.

–Field Level Media

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