Pistons vs Magic Game Preview - Apr. 3, 2012
With Howard and Anderson questionable due to injuries, Orlando will try to avoid a season high-tying fourth consecutive loss Tuesday night when they visit the Detroit Pistons.
Since drafting Howard first overall in 2004, the Magic (32-21) have been without their superstar center just eight times - four of which were due to injury. Sunday's 104-101 home loss to Denver did little to boost Orlando's confidence that it can win without Howard, who was dealing with back spasms and missed his first game of the season.
Davis scored 18 points and grabbed a career-best 16 rebounds in Howard's place, but the Nuggets shot 55.6 percent - the highest by a Magic opponent this season - and scored 44 points in the paint as Orlando played without the three-time reigning defensive player of the year.
"You just can't fill those shoes when you are missing your best player and the best defensive player in the league," point guard Jameer Nelson told the Magic's official website after scoring a season-best 27 points.
While coach Stan Van Gundy still contends Howard's injury is the result of a punch in the back by Dallas' Brendan Haywood during Friday's 100-98 loss, Orlando has new concerns after Anderson - the league leader in 3-pointers (150) and attempts (363) - suffered a sprained right ankle in Sunday's final minutes.
X-rays were negative and Anderson said the sprain is in a "good spot." The Magic, though, could give him the night off as they try to avoid matching a four-game skid from Jan. 26-30.
Anderson has missed one game in 2011-12, a 93-67 loss at New Orleans on Jan. 27 because of a sore left calf.
"It's the end of the season, going down the stretch, and we've got to help each other out," said Davis, who could be matched up with Pistons center Greg Monroe. "... Everybody has to fill their role now because we need it."
That's especially true considering the Magic are clinging to one of the top four seeds and home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. They lead fifth-place Indiana by a half game.
The Pistons (19-33) trail eighth-place New York by 7 1/2 games, but they should enter this contest with plenty of confidence following Saturday's 110-107 overtime victory over Charlotte. With Rodney Stuckey (sore left hamstring) out a second straight game and Ben Gordon (sore right groin) missing his third in a row, Detroit forced overtime after trailing by eight with less than two minutes remaining.
Brandon Knight made two 3s during this stretch, while Will Bynum hit a game-tying 3 with 15.7 seconds left.
"It's a credit to Will that he stayed ready and when his number was called he delivered tonight," coach Lawrence Frank said.
Gordon returned to practice Monday and is expected to play Tuesday, but Stuckey will likely sit again.
Gordon had a team-high 26 points in a 89-78 home win over Orlando on Jan. 2 and Stuckey added 14 as the Pistons won their second in a row in this series after losing the previous five.
Detroit is 7-2 in its last nine at home, while Orlando has dropped four of six on the road.