Detroit — The Orlando Magic trotted out a mammoth-sized starting lineup of Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba for its final preseason game on Friday.
Aside from Anthony, the rest of the group stands at least 6-foot-10 and over. Magic bigs Bol Bol and Moritz Wagner, 7-2 and 6-11, respectively, kept the length going as reserves off the bench.
The Pistons’ first opponent of the 2022-23 regular season will bring that formidable size to Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday night.
Pistons coach Dwane Casey said the Magic’s height will bring a challenge to the rebounding battle, and he wants his players in position to crash the glass, especially when Orlando is shooting from the perimeter.
“One thing it tells us is we better do a good job of boxing out,” Casey said. “But again, we have to respect their shooting too because Carter can shoot it, Bamba can shoot it, Bol Bol can shoot it. They have a bunch of guys, Wagner can shoot it. They can stretch the floor with their size so we don’t want to get that twisted.”
The last time the Pistons and Magic met resulted in a masterclass scoring effort by Saddiq Bey, who finished with a career-high 51 points and nine rebounds on 10-for-14 shooting from the 3-point line in a 110-103 win on March 17.
Both teams tied in the rebounding department with 45 each, but the Pistons were without Cade Cunningham, Jerami Grant and Hamidou Diallo due to injuries. The Magic missed Carter, Bol and Jonathan Isaac, another 6-10 forward in the last meeting.
If Bey has another career scoring night, the odds may be in Detroit’s favor again, but overall team 3-point shooting is going to be vital for their success, according to Pistons center Isaiah Stewart.
“If you’re able to hit that 3-point shot and bring their bigs away from the basket, that’s going to help the offense tremendously,” Stewart said. “Just spacing the floor so it’s not all crowded. They’re big, they’re long and they’re able to be disruptive, so hitting the 3-ball and spacing the floor is going to help us offensively.”
One player who wasn’t on last year’s Magic squad is Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. He led Orlando in scoring during the preseason with 14 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. As a freshman last year at Duke, he totaled 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and a block per game.
“He’s a monster,” Casey said. “He’s physical. He’s strong. He takes up a lot of space and can put the ball on floor out on the perimeter, so he’s a matchup problem for us and anybody else. He’s going to be an excellent player in this league for a long time and a matchup problem because he can go out on the floor and play perimeter positions or he can go down low and post up if he has the right matchup.”
The Pistons’ rebounding margin against their preseason opponents was razor thin. They grabbed 46.5 boards per outing and their opponents totaled 47 per game.
“When the shot goes up, that’s when the size factor goes into play and we gotta make sure we hit and go get it,” Casey said.
The first game sets the tone for the remainder of the season, and every one counts from here on out.
After missing the preseason due to reconditioning and plantar fasciitis, Pistons center Nerlens Noel participated in his first practice with the team on Tuesday.
Casey revealed the news after practice, but he didn’t say if the nine-year veteran would suit up for Wednesday’s game.
Alec Burks is still awaiting to be re-evaluated for a foot injury, but he’s gotten individual work in and has played three-on-three games with two-way players Braxton Key and Buddy Boeheim, alongside some of the team’s player development coaches.
Casey said the team will be able to get a good gauge of what type of team it can be within the first 20-25 games of the season as some players recover from injuries.
“Once we get the full complement of guys back, I’ll know a little bit better of who we are and what we can be,” Casey said.
Magic at Pistons
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: Detroit looks to get the season started on a good note in its first of three games this week. Pistons rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren will make their season debuts. Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft, led the Magic in scoring in the preseason and is the heavy favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award.