Intriguing Eastern Conference matchup set for Thursday night was some significant playoff implications. The Magic currently hold down the 8th and final spot in the Eastern Conference but they have no margin for error whatsoever. They lead the 9th place Miami Heat by 1/2 game and the 10th place Charlotte Hornets by 1.5 games. They’re also in a position to improve their playoff seeding starting with tonight’s opponent. Detroit is in 7th place in the Eastern Conference just 1/2 games of the Magic. Both teams are trying to run down the 6th place Brooklyn Nets who are 1 game up on Orlando and 1/2 game up on Detroit.
Detroit is playing its first home game in a while having recently completed a brutal road trip that began in Cleveland and continued out on the West Coast against Phoenix, Portland, Golden State and Denver. Although the Pistons won only one game during this trip–against lowly Phoenix–they played tough against three of the best teams in the conference. They lost to Denver by 3, Golden State by 7 and Portland by 5 getting the pointspread cover in all three games. The Pistons have been on a nice ATS run during the month of March covering 11 of 14 games. There’s always some concern with a team playing their first home game after a grueling road trip and that could be made worse for the Pistons who were playing in Denver at altitude just 48 hours previously.
If you’ve been a regular reader of our NBA handicapping previews you no doubt are aware that we love this Orlando Magic team. They’ve really been ‘under the radar’ and quietly have become one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They currently have the #5 team defense in the league allowing 106.1 PPG trailing only Miami, Utah, Memphis and Indiana. They’re not much on the offensive end (106.3 PPG #25 in the league). Detroit is in many ways similar to Orlando. It’s been a long time since the Pistons were synonymous with ‘defense’ but Detroit is tied with Milwaukee for the #7 scoring defense in the NBA. Their offensive production hasn’t been much better than Orlando’s at 107.5 PPG ranked #23 in the NBA.
Orlando has been red hot entering this game winning six straight SU going 5-1 against the spread. This road trip isn’t going to get easier–following tonight’s game they head to Indiana to take on the defensively tenacious Pacers and then go North of the Border to take on the Toronto Raptors. They’ve got two easy home games after that facing lowly Atlanta and New York. The Pistons have a tougher schedule–they play Portland at home on Saturday and then play home and home dates with Indiana next Monday and Wednesday. They then play at Oklahoma City before closing out the regular season at home against Charlotte and Memphis.
Scheduling favors Orlando and Detroit ending their road trip in Denver and playing their first home game back is a concern. Magic have been money in the bank getting points this year going 26-20-2 ATS as an underdog and 16-13-1 as a road dog. Their recent form in the role has been even better and they enter this contest on a 11-5-1 ATS run as an underdog. We’ll take the points with the Magic.