Two of the league's youngest teams meet for the third time this season when the Orlando Magic host the Detroit Pistons on Friday.
And like most clubs with youthful rosters, Orlando and Detroit have small margins for error when it comes to closing out games. The Pistons, one of three teams to enter the season with 11 players aged 23 and under, and Magic (nine) have 20 combined victories.
Detroit returns to Eastern Conference competition after a string of six consecutive games against Western Conference foes.
The Pistons dropped both ends of a home-and-home with the Denver Nuggets, including a 110-105 decision on Tuesday as top overall pick Cade Cunningham posted a career-high 34 points and added eight rebounds and eight assists to become the youngest player in franchise history with a 30-5-5 game.
Cunningham, who is averaging 17.9 points per game during the month of January, also hit 6 of 9 3-pointers to give him six games with five-plus triples. That marks the most for any player through 38 career games in NBA history.
"(Cunningham) had four turnovers, so he cut that down a little bit," Detroit coach Dwane Casey said postgame. "But I thought the way he was seeing the floor, passing the ball, finding other people -- and we gotta make shots when he does that -- but you have to have a guy like that, that can go get his own shot no matter who is on him."
But Detroit's roster remains in flux. Frank Jackson (11 points in 14 minutes) did return on Tuesday after being sidelined since Dec. 29 due to an ankle sprain as well as time in the league's health and safety protocol.
However, power forward Kelly Olynyk entered protocol this past weekend -- two games into his return from a 33-game injury absence -- and leading scorer Jerami Grant (20.1 points per game) did the same on Monday after he'd recovered from a thumb injury.
The Magic's 111-102 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday marked their 40th defeat this season. Orlando has lost 15 of its last 17 games and, at 3-18, continues to own the league's worst home record.
Orlando put six players in double figures, led by Franz Wagner's 21 points, but the Magic could not keep Los Angeles off the free-throw line in the fourth quarter as they committed 13 fouls. Los Angeles scored 23 of its 35 fourth-quarter points at the foul line as Luke Kennard's three free throws put the Clippers ahead for good, 80-78, with 10:53 remaining.
"It started with we had a couple live-ball turnovers, as well as defending without fouling," Orlando head coach Jamahl Mosley said after the loss. "We ended up getting into the bonus quickly in that situation. We talked about the aggression, but we also have to understand when to be aggressive and not getting them to the free-throw line."
The Pistons hosted Orlando on Oct. 30 and Jan. 8, winning both games by a combined 12 points, as the Magic fell to 7-24 in their last 31 trips to Detroit.
Orlando's ties to the state of Michigan are well-documented, with former Michigan Wolverines Franz Wagner, Moe Wagner and Ignas Brazdeikis, and former Michigan State Spartan Gary Harris on the roster. Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond also spent time in the Pistons' organization.
--Field Level Media