AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
In 2009 and 2010, blowouts were routine for the Orlando Magic.
In 2011, less so.
In 2012, it seems like the Magic have become more accustomed to getting blown out than blowing teams out. Instead of Orlando dishing out the pain, they’ve been receiving it.
Which is why the Magic’s 30-point victory — their largest of the regular season –against the Detroit Pistons, without Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu (as well as Chris Duhon, who was suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the team), was probably cathartic for head coach Stan Van Gundy. Not only because it was the Pistons, a squad that has consistently given Orlando a ton of grief in the Van Gundy era no matter how good or bad they are, but because the Magic have been on the receiving end of quite a number of butt whoopings this season. For Orlando, surely a little role reversal never hurts once in a while.
What made this win particularly impressive for the Magic is that they beat Detroit largely with defense. Without Dwight, mind you. Instead of Orlando relying on Dwight to anchor things defensively, the starting lineup of Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson, and Glen Davis were forced to rely on each other to shut down the Pistons’ offense. And they did.
In the first half, albeit with some defensive lapses here and there, the unit of Nelson-Redick-Richardson-Anderson-Davis did a good job of rotating properly and, when needed, providing help defense. Even when Ish Smith, Quentin Richardson, and Earl Clark entered the game in the second quarter, they were able to help the Magic keep the momentum going on defense.
Although Orlando, collectively, couldn’t keep the Pistons out of the paint all the time, the Magic were able to force Detroit into shooting a lot of jumpshots (many of them contested). And when the Pistons did attack the rim, Orlando did their best to contest almost everything.
That explains, for the most part, how the Magic carried a 21-point lead into halftime against Detroit — defense.
Also, three-point shooting.
Orlando decimated the Pistons in the first half with their group of snipers, shooting 10-for-19 from three-point range. Ball movement and dribble penetration (for drive-and-kicks) were the keys to the Magic creating a ton of clean looks against Detroit.
That was the game in a nutshell.
In a lot of ways, this is how Orlando blew out opponents when they were an elite team and championship contenders in 2009 and 2010. Defense and three-point shooting.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
In the absence of Dwight (sore back) and Turkoglu (facial fracture), Nelson stepped up as the Magic’s primary playmaker and carved up the Pistons’ defense with his scoring and passing (18 points and 9 assists).
After Detroit shot 56.6 percent from the floor against Orlando on April 3, the Magic tightened up defensively this time around. With Orlando’s defense playing on a string all night long, the Pistons shot 40.5 percent.
That Was … Payback
With the win, the Magic avoided an embarrassing season series sweep at the hands of Detroit. And Orlando did so in emphatic fashion, combining defense with red-hot three-point shooting (15-for-28) to earn the victory.