Pistons vs. Magic: Five things to watch

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Andre Drummond puts up a shot against Toronto in the season opener on Wednesday night.

Auburn Hills — The Detroit Pistons open their home slate Friday night at The Palace against the Orlando Magic. After a sloppy defensive performance in Wednesday’s loss at Toronto, coach Stan Van Gundy is looking to have better ball movement and rebounding against the Magic, whom they’ve beaten in the last six meetings.

The new-look Magic added Serge Ibaka in an offseason trade for Victor Oladipo, which gives them a nice 1-2 combination with center Nikolas Vucevic. Add on small forward Aaron Gordon and the Magic have one of the most athletic starting frontcourts in the league, along with free agent Bismack Biyombo coming off the bench.

“Defensively, they’ve changed a lot; you see Ibaka getting a lot more opportunities to score the ball, particularly in the post,” Van Gundy said. “He always had the pick-and-pop jumper, which they still utilize, but they’re getting the ball down in the post and playing really well.”


Shot selection: Van Gundy wasn’t happy with quick shots and some of the screens against Toronto. He’s been focusing on the pick-and-roll sets and creating more space and better opportunities out of those looks, which didn’t happen in the opener. Look for point guard Ish Smith to be more aggressive coming off of screens to create shots for himself and others.

On the boards: Andre Drummond got in early foul trouble and played only seven minutes in the first half against the Raptors. Barring more foul issues, he should be able to get back to his normal production, but with the Magic’s big frontcourt, he’ll be challenged on offensive boards. Other Pistons players said they had to do more to help in getting rebounds, whether Drummond is on the floor or not.

Going big: How will the Pistons counter the Magic’s lengthy and athletic big men? Is there an opportunity to play Drummond along with either Aron Baynes or Boban Marjanovic? Van Gundy likely wouldn’t sacrifice shooting for size but if rebounding becomes an issue, he has more length with Jon Leuer and Henry Ellenson than he had last season.

Van Gundy laments Pistons' soft defense

Staying on guard: The starting backcourt of Ish Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined to go 5-of-19 from the field, including 0-of-7 on 3-pointers in the opener. They’ll need better production, but some of their shots came on the stalled possessions and lack of ball movement, which led to rushed attempts near the end of the shot clock. The good news is that they’re not facing DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

Is this the end? The Red Wings celebrated their final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, but with rumors circulating that the Pistons could be making the move downtown to join the Wings at Little Caesars Arena next season, it could be the swan song for them playing at The Palace. The fans have been amped up for home openers in past years, but this one could go under the radar a little.


Twitter @detnewsRodBeard