Reeling in Motown

The Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic are still on top of their respective divisions, but they have not played much like first-place teams lately.

Coming off yet another lopsided loss, the Pistons look to avoid a season-high third straight defeat on Monday and try to blow out the Magic for the second time in as many meetings this season.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Detroit –2.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 191.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 79% of bets for this game have been placed on Detroit –2.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Detroit (29-12) lost just seven of its first 33 games, racing to a 10-game lead in the Central Division. That stretch concluded with an 11-game winning streak, which ended with a 92-85 home loss to Eastern Conference-leading Boston on Jan. 5 - a defeat which seems to have sent the Pistons into a funk.

It was the first of five losses in the last eight games for Detroit, which has seen its division lead dip to seven games over second-place Cleveland.

"We're playing with no type of energy and no kind of chemistry," Pistons forward Antonio McDyess said. "It's like everyone is out of whack. I don't know what it is but we have to come together."

Detroit handed the Magic (25-17) what remains their biggest loss of the season, 116-92 in Orlando on Nov. 2. That was one of just four defeats in November for the Magic as they took control of the Southeast Division.

They ended 2007 on a four-game winning streak, but have gone 3-6 this month to see their division lead shrink to two games over Washington.

It had been a month since the Magic beat a team with a winning record before they posted a 101-94 home victory over Portland on Saturday.

"This one is out of the way and we have an even better team coming in Monday, the Detroit Pistons, so we have our work cut out for us," Orlando's Rashard Lewis said. "I think we are a great scoring team but we just have to continue to play defense."

The way the Pistons have lost some games lately has coach Flip Saunders concerned.

Last Sunday, Detroit managed only one more point than the lowest total in franchise history in an 89-65 road loss to a New York team which owns the second-worst record in the East. The Pistons bounced back to beat Toronto on Tuesday, but have since suffered back-to-back losses to sub-.500 teams.

One night after a 100-93 home loss to Sacramento, Detroit was held to 14 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 97-81 defeat at Chicago.

"I told our players they have an obligation to go out and give great effort every night," Saunders said. "And the last two nights I don't think we played with the passion we need to play with so we addressed it and we need to get back on track."

The Pistons have given up more than 95 points in back-to-back games for the first time since mid-November.

Detroit is also shooting 40.9 percent from the field over the last eight games while getting held to an average of 88.3 points, nearly 10 below their season average.

"This is definitely fixable," Pistons guard Richard Hamilton said. "We have to be ready to play. We can't wait until the fourth quarter, we can't wait for the playoffs. We have to come out and play hard and play 48 minutes."

Rasheed Wallace has become a non-factor offensively, failing to score in double figures in four straight games. He's averaged 6.5 points in that span while shooting 27.5 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from 3-point range.

Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu had been in a similar slump, averaging 8.7 points on 9-of-36 shooting during a three-game stretch, before scoring 36 points over the last two games. He led the Magic with 20 points in Saturday's victory.

Even Dwight Howard has been less effective offensively in recent weeks, scoring 17 points or less in seven of the last 11 games. He averaged 23.7 points through the first 25 games of the season.

Howard was limited to 16 points in the first meeting with Detroit, which has won five straight and nine of 10 versus the Magic.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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