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Magic eye return to win column in visit with Pistons

Orlando's stranglehold on the third seed in the Eastern Conference has been eroding and the Magic will try to right the ship a bit when they visit the lottery bound Detroit Pistons.

Getting Dwight Howard back in the lineup is imperative to that goal.

Orlando, playing without its All-Star center for the first time this season, lost its third straight game on Sunday, falling to Denver, 104-101, in Central Florida.

With D-12 sitting with back spasms, Jameer Nelson led the way with a season- high 27 points while the improved Ryan Anderson registered 20 points despite spraining his right ankle late in the game for the Magic.

Orlando had a chance to even things at the buzzer, but Jason Richardson, who was 0-for-6 from behind the arc in the game and finished with just six points, missed a running three-pointer.

Glen Davis got the start in the middle replacing Howard and posted 18 points and 16 rebounds while J.J. Redick netted 15 points in defeat.

Denver shot 56 percent from the field in the absence of Howard, the reigning three-time NBA 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," Nelson told the Magic's website.

The Magic are now just one-half game in front of Indiana and 1 1/2 clear of both Boston and Indiana in the East playoff race.

Howard, who has missed only eight games in his career since being taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft, is listed as questionable for tonight as is Anderson, the NBA leader in three-pointers with 150.

The Pistons, meanwhile, are playing out the string and have won three of four, including Saturday's 110-107 overtime win against Charlotte.

Will Bynum buried a three-pointer from the left wing with 15.7 seconds left in regulation of that one to send the game to an extra fame and Detroit held off the Bobcats from there.

Jonas Jerebko gave the Pistons a 105-103 lead with 50.5 seconds left in the extra session and the home team led 108-104 before Reggie Williams connected on a trey to cut the margin to one with 6.4 ticks on the clock.

Tayshaun Prince hit two at the free throw line to make it a three-point game and Byron Mullens and Williams both came up empty on potential game-tying threes as the Pistons secured the victory.

Prince poured in 24 points and Jerebko finished with 18 to help the Pistons improve their record at The Palace to 13-12. Bynum added 17 points in the win.

"It's basketball," said Bynum when talking about his big shot that sent the game into OT. "I've been playing basketball since I was five years old. You have ups and downs; it's just a part of the game. It's just playing through it and knowing your ability."

Detroit is also hurting with guard Rodney Stuckey (sore left hamstring) expected to miss his third straight game. Fellow backcourt mate Ben Gordon has already missed three straight with a sore right groin but has been labeled as probable for tonight's contest.

The Pistons have won two straight over the Magic after losing the previous five in the series.