Denton: Magic Look to Rebound Against Pistons

By John Denton
Feb. 5, 2014

ORLANDO – Last week’s loss to the Detroit Pistons still fresh in their minds, the Orlando Magic know that they have to rebound the basketball to have any chance of winning tonight’s rematch.

This time around, at least Orlando will have its biggest weapon on the glass available to combat Detroit’s towering front line.

Nikola Vucevic didn’t play last week when Detroit thrashed the Magic 103-87 thanks in large part to a 56-40 deficit on the glass. The Pistons, led by a front line of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and forced Orlando into 16 turnovers – numbers that Orlando must turn around if they are to have success when the two teams face off at 7 p.m. at Amway Center.

``It’s very important (to rebound). I feel like they play a similar type of basketball to Indiana where they crash the glass, they’re very athletic and they have big bodies,’’ Vucevic said. ``So we have to defend the offensive glass and make sure that we take care of that.’’

The Magic also expect to get back veteran point guard Jameer Nelson, who missed the past two games with a sore left knee. Nelson played all 12 minutes of the first quarter in last Friday’s defeat of Milwaukee, but he couldn’t go on because of pain in the knee. Nelson did not make the trip to Boston and Indiana – two losses.

Nelson went through Wednesday’s morning practice and he’s feeling OK after another pregame workout, he should start at point guard.

``It feels better. I guess I’m a game-time decision and we’ll see how it feels later after I work out,’’ said Nelson, who is averaging 13.4 points and 6.6 assists a game. ``It was one of those things that was bothering me for a week-and-a-half or two weeks and I just kept playing on it. I kind of tweaked it in the Toronto game and kept playing on it. And against Milwaukee, I tweaked it again. It’s just one of those things that I didn’t want to keep messing with.’’

Prized Magic rookie Victor Oladipo started the past two games at point guard, but will endure another change tonight if Nelson can play. He’ll either move back to shooting guard or come off the bench. Because of Detroit’s size at small forward, Tobias Harris could start and Oladipo would be used in a reserve role.

Vucevic missed 12 games after suffering a concussion on Jan. 6 when he landed head-first on the floor in Los Angeles. He returned last week in Toronto and has since played four games, posting admirable numbers for a player who is still working his way back into shape.

In his four games since returning from the concussion, Vucevic has three double-doubles and is averaging 14.5 points and 10 rebounds. More importantly, he’s grabbed 15 offensive rebounds in those games, proving that his stamina and feel around the rim are steadily improving.

Vucevic was proud of his effort against Indiana on Monday night considering the caliber of competition that he was going against. He totally shut down Indiana standout center Roy Hibbert while also posting 16 points, 13 rebounds and four offensive boards.

``(His stamina) pretty good actually. I played pretty big minutes and I was going against Roy Hibbert, a pretty big guy who has a lot of energy, and I felt like I did pretty good,’’ said Vucevic, who is averaging 13.2 points and 10.9 rebounds a game this season in 32 games. ``I’m still trying to get my legs under me a little bit, but it won’t take too long.’’

Vucevic knows that he will need plenty of help on the glass tonight considering that the Pistons (19-28) are first in the league in rebounding and points in the paint. Detroit features three top-50 rebounders in Drummond (third at 12.7 rpg.), Monroe (19th at 8.9 rpg.) and Smith (38th at 6.8 rpg.).

``They thrive in the paint, that’s where they get the majority of their points and they lead the league in offensive rebounds and rebounding in general,’’ Magic forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis said. ``As a whole, we’re going to have to come together and rebound the ball. And I just have to do a little more.’’

Smith, who left the Atlanta Hawks to sign a free-agent contract with the Detroit Pistons last offseason, has been hot and cold against the Magic this season. In the Magic’s 109-92 defeat of Detroit in Orlando on Dec. 27, Smith made just two of 13 shots and scored just five points. Last week in Detroit, Smith connected on eight of 12 tries for 16 points.

Harris knows that the Pistons mostly go based on how Smith is playing, so he wants to make things difficult on the enigmatic Smith.

``Those are the types of matchups that I look forward to and embrace,’’ Harris said. ``It’s a good test for me. I look to embrace these types of games.’’