The last thing the Magic want to see is the Pistons to sneak into that sixth playoff spot. There’s no doubt these Pistons have the Magic’s number. The Pistons hammered the Magic on Friday night, holding the Magic to 34 points in the second half on their way to a 93-85 victory. It was the same old story. While the Magic protested call after call, the Pistons went about their business and never took their foot off the Magic’s throats. The Magic saw an eight-point halftime lead turn into a seven-point third-quarter deficit. The Magic are complaining so much to the refs it’s ridiculous. Why not channel some of that anger to the opponent? In comparison to the Magic, Rasheed Wallace was mild-mannered out there tonight. Dwight Howard displayed his frustration about the interior contact all night. Dear, Dwight: Instead of screaming and whining to the refs, get the ball in the post and take all that anger with you to the rim. No one is going to stop you, so take it right through Antonio McDyess. If you get a charge, who cares? Message sent. A little over a month ago, I felt the exact same way after the soft Magic lost a similar game to the Celtics. Here’s what I wrote then:
You can say their shots weren’t falling. You can call shenanigans on the refs, saying Dwight was fouled or Pierce and Wade were getting all the calls. But the biggest reason the Magic are on a two-game losing streak is an easy one. They’re soft. No one on the Magic, not even the big man in the middle, likes contact. While the Celtics initiate contact and play through the whistle, the Magic spend half their energy complaining to the referees. How many times have we seen a Magic player get stripped of the ball, then turn to the ref and put his hands up in protest? If the Magic want to have any further success in the playoffs, they have to toughen up. Don’t complain to the refs. Take the ball to the rim. Don’t allow any easy buckets, and protect the paint.
That same thing can be said today. And it doesn’t look like the Magic have it in them to change. Right now, it appears the Magic are content with being a very good team that can stay close with the elite teams if their shots are falling. Playing to Detroit’s pace Detroit plays a slow, half-court, defensive style of play. And the Magic let Detroit dictate the style, like always. The Magic took 67 field goals and 22 free throws, compared to their season averages of 78 and 27. The Magic didn’t run, and they settled for long jumpers way too often – they were 14-of-43 on jump shots, and 4-of-18 from 3-point range. The Pistons looked like the old Pistons. Down the stretch, Detroit got all the stops and Rip Hamilton didn’t allow the Magic to get within a basket in the fourth quarter. Allen Iverson was told before the game that he’s no longer a starter. That’s bad news for Orlando. The Pistons have beaten the Magic 26 of their past 31 meetings, including the playoffs. Dwight and the double team Whenever the Pistons threw the ball into the post away from Dwight Howard, Howard would double team on the catch. Dwight’s long arms made it to where the post-man really couldn’t pass it the direction of the basket, essentially cutting the court in half. It was a defensive ploy the Magic haven’t used much of this season. Howard was spending more time away from his man than usual, as he consistently walked the line of defensive 3 seconds in an effort to take away the paint. Howard was called for defensive three seconds twice. The Pistons had only 26 points in the paint, and at least eight of those were 13-footers from Rip Hamilton. Hamilton, one of the premier Magic killers, finished with 31 points. Rodney Stuckey had 22 points. Two clear trends continued on Friday night: opponents’ guards are scoring at will, and the Pistons own the Magic.