The Orlando Magic are trying to establish themselves as one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. The Detroit Pistons have been standing in their way.
The Magic will try for their first victory in Detroit in nearly four years when they face the Pistons on Friday for the second time this week.
Orlando (27-17) has dropped six straight road games to the Pistons (30-13) since an 87-86 victory Feb. 22, 2004. Overall, the Magic have won just four of their last 19 regular season meetings with the Pistons.
The Magic made the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03 last season, but Detroit swept them in the first round. This season, Orlando owns the third-best record in the East, but lost its first matchup with the Pistons 116-92 at home Nov. 2.
The Magic, though, earned a measure of revenge Monday, beating Detroit 102-100 at home to end a five-game regular season losing streak in the series. Detroit is in second place in the East, 4 1/2 games behind Boston.
"We took them to the end tonight - lets you know that when we come to play our hardest and play at the defensive end we can be one of those good teams too," said Orlando forward Rashard Lewis, the longtime Seattle SuperSonics star who signed with the Magic in the offseason.
The veteran Pistons, meanwhile, recognize the challenge they face in clubs such as Orlando.
"When you have younger teams and they are looking to try and climb that mountain and get to the top, they have to go through certain people," Detroit's Chauncey Billups said after Monday's game. "We are one of those teams. We have been for a long time and we are going to be there for a long time."
The Magic's winning streak reached three games with Wednesday's 112-85 victory at Memphis. Hedo Turkoglu scored 26 points for Orlando, which hit a team-record 18 3-pointers.
Turkoglu was coming off a game-high 26-point performance against the Pistons.
"There was a lot of penetration and kicks, and that's why we were getting open 3s instead of coming down and settling for the 3-point shot," said Lewis, who had 16 points. "We took what they gave us. Sometimes it was a layup, but the majority of the night, it was open 3-pointers."
Dwight Howard added 16 points and 10 rebounds Wednesday for the Magic, who have scored in triple digits in eight of their last nine games. Howard leads the NBA with 37 double-doubles.
"We shot the ball great, but you know, my happiness tonight is that we played very good defense," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "To hold that team to 43 percent and to 85 points, and we held them to 37 in the second half - that was what impressed me."
While the Magic have been playing well, the Pistons beat Philadelphia 86-78 on Wednesday to avoid their first four-game skid since 2004-05.
"It's been a tough month for us," said Tayshaun Prince, who scored 16 points.
Richard Hamilton added 21 points for Detroit, which won despite getting outrebounded 47-33 and going 6-for-21 from the floor in the fourth quarter.
"They were in the game, they were definitely in the game," Billups said. "Most times, we're going to execute and do what's right down the stretch. Whether we make the shots or not, we're going to execute. We did that."
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