The Palace at Auburn Hills has been the house of horrors for the Orlando Magic in recent memory and tonight was no different. The Pistons defeated the Magic by the score of 89-78. With the victory, Detroit snapped Orlando’s four-game winning streak. The Pistons deserve all the credit in the world for coming away with the win but this is a case where a lockout-shortened schedule finally caught up to the Magic. Playing on their fourth game in five nights and also playing against a team that was rested, Orlando simply had little energy. Detroit was methodical on offense and relentless on defense. Ben Gordon led the way for the Pistons, finishing with a game-high 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field (8-of-9 from the free-throw line), six assists, and three rebounds. Rodney Stuckey didn’t shoot the basketball very well but he was aggressive in attacking the basket and he contributed with 14 points (10-of-13 from the free-throw line), four rebounds and two steals. Tayshaun Prince had 14 points and five rebounds, while Greg Monroe had 10 points and nine rebounds. Dwight Howard finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, and five steals. Ryan Anderson had 13 points and six rebounds, while Hedo Turkoglu also had 13 points.
Detroit was methodical on offense thanks to Gordon and Stuckey.
Ben Gordon destroyed the Magic in tonight’s game. Like the Richard Hamiltons of the world, Gordon punished Orlando’s defenders by forcing them to chase him around screens. It didn’t matter if it was Jason Richardson guarding him, J.J. Redick, whoever, Gordon had his way offensively and was in the groove from the get-go. In the first half, as the Pistons kept pace with the Magic, Gordon carried them with 17 points. In the second half, Orlando did a better job of containing Gordon but he had a shot in the third quarter that signified that Detroit seemed to be destined to win this game. With the shot clock winding down and Gordon finding himself with the ball along the left corner behind the three-point line, Richardson did a good job of not allowing any space. Gordon had no room to shoot. Gordon, then, ran a 2/5 pick-and-roll with Jason Maxiell to try to free himself up. Glen Davis wisely showed on Gordon. With the shot clock expiring and Davis all over him with both of his arms in the air, Gordon hoisted up a three-point shot and made it. With plays like that going the Pistons’ way, there wasn’t much the Magic could do.
It didn’t help, either, that Stuckey attacked the rim with reckless abandon in the third and fourth quarters to supplement Gordon’s scoring after a quiet first half. Stuckey has always been a matchup problem for Orlando because of his strength, size, and quickness at the point guard position. There’s not much Jameer Nelson could do to slow him down and the same could be said for Chris Duhon, though he gave a better effort defensively.
With Stuckey, and also Gordon, drawing fouls and piling up free-throws (the two combined to shoot 18-of-24 from the free-throw line) as well as Detroit getting just enough production from other role players, they were able to grab the lead in the second half after trailing by two points at halftime and hold onto it the remainder of the way.
On defense, the Pistons played with a lot of energy and effort, frustrating Howard and never letting him get into a flow offensively while also containing the Magic’s shooters. Orlando tried to force-feed the basketball to Howard in the post the entire game but that gameplan was met with moderate success. With head coach Lawrence Frank utilizing Greg Monroe, Ben Wallace, and Jason Maxiell defensively, they did plenty to make life difficult for Howard on the low block. Again, more than anything else, it was the activity that did the trick. Monroe, Wallace, and Maxiell were willing to be physical with Howard in the post. The strategy worked as Howard seemed out of sorts at various points in the game.
Detroit had active hands on defense as well and forced 17 turnovers, which is a lot in a game that totaled 82 possessions. Yet it should be noted that the Magic made silly unforced errors (for example, the players tried one too many times to force the ball inside to Howard).
Howard, Anderson, and Turkoglu played okay on offense but there wasn’t enough production coming from the backcourt. Orlando relies on Nelson, Richardson, and Redick to carry the load offensively among the guards but none of them could get anything going. Redick had the most success, making three consecutive layups in the second quarter but that was about it. It’s unacceptable for Nelson and Richardson to shoot 1-of-5 from the field, let alone attempt five shots each. The Magic needed Nelson and Richardson to be way more assertive on offense.
When it was all said and done, the Pistons played with more energy and were the aggressors for most of the night. That was the magical formula for a win.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.