Believe it or not, there isn’t a Detroit curse on the Magic, and there isn’t some type of “matchup issue” with Detroit. Missing Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, tonight’s Pistons team shared virtually no characteristics with the Pistons teams of the past few seasons. No Rasheed, no McDyess, no Billups, no Rip, no Prince, no lockdown defense — this game was simply about the Magic being outplayed by another team, on both ends of the floor. The jersey on the opposing team is simply coincidence. Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum combined to score 65 of the Pistons’ 85 points as the Pistons beat up Orlando 85-80. Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat fouled out, leaving Brandon Bass to play center in the game’s final minutes, and Vince Carter sat out most of the fourth quarter. Howard endured his worst game of recent memory (8 points, 5 rebounds, 17 minutes), and Gortat didn’t play much better (4 points, 7 rebounds, 23 minutes). With the Magic’s stars out, it was one of the worst offensive games of the Stan Van Gundy era. The Magic shot 36.7 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from three-point range, reached the free-throw line 16 times compared to Detroit’s 38, and scored only 24 points in the paint.
1. On a night where the Magic’s big men were in foul trouble, the backcourt didn’t show up. Vince Carter led the Magic with 15 points, but he really didn’t play well. He took 16 shots, all of which were outside of the paint (more on that later), making only six of them. JJ Redick, Jason Williams and Jameer Nelson didn’t play great offensively, either. But it was in the defensive backcourt where the Magic suffered the most problems. Ben Gordon controlled the game, taking advantage of, at times, lackluster defense from Carter, as well as outsmarting Redick more than once out on the perimeter. You can live with that, though. You can’t live with Will Bynum abusing Nelson and Williams on the perimeter, penetrating almost at will and creating open mid-range looks for himself off the dribble. Stuckey didn’t play particularly efficiently (it took him 20 shots to score 20 points), but he practically penetrated at will.
2. Jameer Nelson, with just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, was significantly outplayed by Detroit’s point guards. In a game when Orlando’s other stars were hobbled, suspended and fouled out, it was time for Nelson to take over. And it never happened. Nelson struggled to find a shot off isolation and pick-and-roll situations in the fourth quarter, consequently ending the game with a turnover and a couple bad shots in the final minutes. Nelson is going to have games like this – any shooting point guard is — but the Magic really wish it came on a different night.
3. For all the talk about defense, the offense didn’t show up tonight. Tonight was more than just Orlando missing shots — the players were standing around, watching others play one-on-one and shooting contested jumpers early in the shot clock. I know the shots aren’t always going to fall, but tonight was simply bad offense. Three players standing around watching pick-and-rolls — I know that’s what Orlando’s offense is based around, but we saw very little cutting and very little movement outside of the players near the ball.
Even with Howard and Gortat battling foul trouble, the Magic did a decent job on the boards. The Pistons held a 44-42 rebounding advantage and a 26-24 points in the paint advantage, which can certainly be considered a wash in a 48-minute basketball game. That said, the Pistons had a rotation of Ben Wallace and Kwame Brown at the center position, and Charlie Villanueva isn’t known for his rebounding prowess at power forward, so it’s not like the Magic deserve a gold star for the performance. Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes should earn some credit, though.
I know he was hobbled, and I know it was only one game, but check out Vince Carter’s shot chart from tonight:
Vince Carter, 6-of-16 from the field
No field-goal attempts in the paint. All jumpers. No aggressiveness. Watching the game, it looked like Vince had no intentions on putting the offense in motion or attacking the rim. He fired early in possessions, often with double digits left on the shot clock. We all know he has freedom to do almost whatever he wants, and that’s fine, but a little more patience and tact would be nice out of the veteran. Outside of that, there was a lot not to like about the team’s offense, which is discussed above.