No Dwight Howard. No Jameer Nelson. No J.J. Redick. No Mickael Pietrus. And after spraining his right foot literally seconds after checking into the game in the second quarter, no Ryan Anderson either. Guess what?
Despite playing the basketball equivalent of a skeleton crew, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Detroit Pistons by the score of 104-91 to extend their winning streak to a season-high six games. Even though a stomach virus depleted the roster and forced the Magic to play with eight players, they performed like a more talented version of the “Heart and Hustle” team in 2000. Orlando has won a lot of games over the years but given the circumstances, this was one of the most impressive wins in franchise history. That’s not hyperbole. The Magic should be proud of this win because they played with tremendous energy and effort. It was a balanced attack for Orlando, as five players scored in double figures but the leaders of the game were Vince Carter and Brandon Bass. Carter, for one night, was the focal point of the Magic’s offense and superb in his role, finishing with 25 points, nine assists, and three steals. Bass was equally brilliant, scoring a career-high 27 points on 11-of-12 shooting and serving notice that he’s a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate in the NBA. Marcin Gortat chipped in with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. Quentin Richardson and Rashard Lewis each had 15 points at the forward positions.
Similar to Tuesday’s game, there was a lot of scoring in the first half. The Pistons did whatever they wanted offensively, led mostly by Tayshaun Prince’s efforts.
However, just like Tuesday, Orlando was able to buckle down on defense and held Detroit to 36 points in the second half. That was one of the keys to the game, as the Magic’s were able to execute their schemes defensively with great effect.
Players were fighting through the Pistons’ maze of screens on the perimeter and contesting shots, rotating properly on defense, taking charges, and more. Yeah, Prince had his way on offense but Orlando — as a team — was able to do a nice job of containing Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, and Ben Gordon. If Detroit wanted to win, they need production from their guards but no such luck. Kudos to the Magic for bunkering down and showing a commitment defensively.
But let’s talk about the offense. Because Orlando was shorthanded, some of the plays offensively got a little quirky. For example, in the second quarter, Lewis and Carter executed a rare 3/2 pick and roll. Carter set a screen on the perimeter and Lewis attacked the basket, spinning to the rim and finding Gortat along the baseline for a mid-range jumper. Rest assured, that’s not a play the Magic will run frequently when they have their full complement of players.
Also, late in the fourth quarter, Carter and Lewis engaged in a two-man game.
On two straight possession, Carter and Lewis executed a 2/3 pick and roll. The purpose was to force a switch and get Stuckey, Carter’s defender, on Lewis. It worked and Lewis was able to post up on Stuckey. Lewis made a hook shot on the first of the two possessions but on the latter possession, he got blocked as he attempted a jumper. Fortunately for Lewis, Carter was there to retrieve the loose ball and make the layup.
Those plays were, admittedly, fascinating to watch.
So was watching Carter and Bass go to work on offense.
Carter got off to a quick start in the first quarter and for a moment, it seemed like he was on his way to a monster performance. On the first possession of the game, Carter posted up on Hamilton and overpowered him on his way to the basket for a hook shot in the lane. On the very next possession, Lewis set a screen for Carter and he was able to make an uncontested three-pointer. Not satisfied, Carter made a jumper off a handoff pass from Gortat on his third straight possession. Needless to say, Carter was locked in. For the remainder of the evening, Carter did a great job of executing pick and rolls, using them to get layups. Once in a while, Carter would spot up for a shot on the perimeter but for the most part, he didn’t have too much trouble getting easy baskets, whether it was in transition or in half-court sets.
As for Bass, he couldn’t miss.
[4:56] Bass makes layup
[3:13] Bass makes 19-foot jumpshot (Duhon assist)
[2:28] Bass makes driving layup
[2:28] Bass makes free throw 1 of 1
[10:37] Bass makes 19-foot jumpshot (Carter assist)
[10:06] Bass makes layup (Richardson assist)
[10:06] Bass makes free throw 1 of 1
[8:48] Bass makes free throw 1 of 2
[8:48] Bass makes free throw 2 of 2
[8:10] Bass makes 7-foot two point shot (Carter assist)
[6:58] Bass makes 17-foot jumpshot (Williams assist)
[3:09] Bass makes 20-foot jumpshot (Williams assist)
[0:48] Bass dunk (Williams assist)
[8:33] Bass makes 18-foot jumpshot (Carter assist)
[7:18] Bass makes free throw 2 of 2
[3:56] Bass makes layup (Gortat assist)
Dunks, layups, and mid-range jumpers. That was Bass’ night in a nutshell.
Either Bass was catching-and-shooting off passes from his teammates, or he was making aggressive forays at the rim. It looked so easy. Granted, the Pistons have one of the worst defenses in the league but Bass took full advantage.
This may sound blasphemous but Orlando has found their new Horace Grant.
His name is Brandon Bass.