Magic Hopeful Aaron Gordon Returns Tonight vs. Pistons

By John Denton
Dec. 28, 2017

ORLANDO – In Tobias Harris, the Detroit Pistons have a versatile power forward with great size and speed and someone who is also a dynamic threat from the perimeter because of his much-improved 3-point shot.

Tonight, the Orlando Magic hope to get back their dynamic power forward who is also a threat from the perimeter because of his much-improved 3-point shot.

The Magic (11-24) are hopeful that Aaron Gordon can return tonight against the surging Detroit Pistons (19-14) and help them break out of a nine-game losing streak that has soured their season. Once 8-4, the Magic have suffered two nine-game skids and have lost 20 of 23 games as injuries have ravaged the roster.

Gordon and Evan Fournier (sore ankle/foot) are listed as game-time decisions for tonight because of the nature of their injuries. Rookie Jonathan Isaac, who has been in and out of games in recent weeks because of trouble stemming from a sprained right ankle, is out tonight once again.

Orlando has lost Nikola Vucevic (broken left hand), Terrence Ross (knee sprain), Fournier, Isaac and Gordon (concussion and calf strain) for long stretches. The Magic got Fournier and Isaac back on Tuesday in Miami and the return of Gordon would make them somewhat closer to whole once again.

``(Fournier) had some soreness and he’s still a little bit limited and when he plays he still feels (pain) too,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said of the forward, scored 14 points in 30 minutes on Tuesday. ``He’s just trying to play through it. You need your best players out there and (Gordon and Fournier) are two of our best players. They’re two-way players and the perimeter shooting is probably what we miss the most. That’s what kind of makes (point guard) Elfrid Payton go, when he can create and find shooters on the perimeter. He’s being asked to score more, but we miss those other guys being out.’’

Gordon, 22, has missed the past five games with a strained right calf muscle. Prior to that injury on Dec. 15, Gordon missed two games with a concussion. He is aching to get back so that he can help the Magic reverse the course of their slumping season.

``I’m constantly doing rehab and working out to keep my mind and body sharp,’’ Gordon said. ``I do meditations and visualizations to harness my energy so that when I do come back, I’m ready to go.’’

Detroit has won five of six games, but it is also dealing with a significant injury issue of its own. Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson suffered a Grade 3 sprain of his right ankle and is expected to miss at least six weeks. Ish Smith, who played for the Magic for parts of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, will be the starter at point guard – a role that he capably handled last season when Jackson missed 20 games to start last season. Smith is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 assists a game this season.

The Pistons will likely lean heavily on Harris, a standout with the Magic from 2012-15. The 25-year-old forward is in the midst of his best game as a pro, averaging 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 45 percent from 3-point range.
Harris was never better than Tuesday when he made 10 of 11 shots and scored 30 points in Detroit’s 107-83 rout of the Indiana Pacers. Harris had 21 in the first quarter and 26 in the first half to build a double-digit lead that the Pistons never lost in their impressive defeat of Indiana.

``His 3-point shooting has grown. He’s shot it more and that’s been his biggest improvement, no question about it,’’ Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``His willingness to shoot the ball from (3-point range) and make defenses play him honest has helped. He’s shot it well and he has a lot more 3-point attempts and makes.’’

Like Harris, Gordon has blossomed this season thanks in large part to his much-improved accuracy from 3-point range. In addition to averaging career highs in points (18.3), rebounds (8.0), assists (2.2) and steals (1.0), Gordon is shooting 49 percent from the floor and 40.1 percent from 3-point range – also NBA-bests for him.

Detroit beat the Magic 114-110 on Dec. 17 after tying a franchise record with 17 3-pointers. The Pistons made those 17 3-pointers in the game’s first three quarters, but had to hold on as the Magic cut a 24-point deficit to five with a 19-0 burst in the final period. Mario Hezonja had a career night for Orlando, scoring 28 points and drilling eight 3-pointers in that game.

In the four games since that highlight night, Hezonja has averaged 13.2 points while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor, but just 26.6 percent from 3-point range (four of 15).

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