Harris lends magic touch to Pistons’ playoff push

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Pistons' Tobias Harris

Auburn Hills — Since being acquired from the Magic on Feb. 16, Tobias Harris has played an integral role in the Pistons playoff push.

After trading Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova in exchange for the forward, the Pistons are 10-7 overall, 10-5 when Harris starts.

Meanwhile, the Magic has trended in the other direction at 6-12.

“Offensively, we improved (with Harris),” coach Stan Van Gundy said Tuesday. “He’s played very well and very efficiently. I think guys enjoy playing with him. He’s unselfish and he moves the ball, but — this is true of all of our guys — he’s got to do a better job on the defensive end of the floor.”

Harris faces his former team for the first time tonight. And while he regularly keeps in touch with several ex-teammates, Harris is adamant there won’t be any playful smack talk or revenge on his mind.

“I look at it as a game for us as a team to win,” Harris said. “We’re fighting for a playoff seed right now. All that emotion can go out the door. That’d be a lot of wasted energy to go into the game with a chip on your shoulder against a team that traded me. That’d be selfish of me.”

Heading into the final three weeks of the regular season, the Pistons postseason hopes hinge on every game. And with four straight home games against playoff-caliber teams looming, tonight’s matchup against the scuffling Magic is vital.

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“We need to make a good run here and we need to build some momentum to have a lot of confidence going into those games,” Harris said.

Entering play Tuesday, the Pistons (37-34) were ninth in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Bulls (36-33) for the final playoff spot by a percentage point and the seventh-place Pacers (37-33) by a half game.

And after just skating past the Kings, Nets and Bucks — three teams out of the playoff conversation — it’s a position the Pistons are lucky to be in.

“You can never take a team lightly,” Harris said. “We have to be better and we know that. We got to go out there and make it happen.

“As starters, we got to get off to a better start. Defensively, we have to be better and we got to play harder out there as a unit. We do those three things, we’ll be all right.”

With 11 games to go and a chance to help end a six-year postseason drought, Harris is focused on looking ahead.

“You don’t ask questions,” he said. “You just go with the flow. That’s kind of how I look at it; you just keep on pushing.”

Morris heats up

Marcus Morris is shooting 58 percent (35-for-60) the past six games, including 76 percent (16-for-21) from 3-point range.

Morris was 4-for-4 on 3-pointers during Monday’s last-second victory over the Bucks, hitting two during a pivotal fourth-quarter run that helped get the Pistons back into the game.

This season, Morris is shooting 42.8 percent overall, 34.8 percent on 3-pointers.

... The Pistons snapped their streak of giving up at least 100 points Monday, but allowed a third straight opponent to shoot better than 50 percent.

Magic at Pistons

Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, The Palace, Auburn Hills

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: The Pistons look to extend their winning streak to four against a fourth straight sub-.500 team. ... The Magic (29-41) has lost four straight and eight of 10. It is led by Nikola Vucevic (17.8 points, 9.0 rebounds) and Victor Oladipo (16.1 points).