Carter, Bass Lead Undermanned Magic to Win

Brandon Bass must be twice a man, maybe three times a man. There is no other explanation for the breakout performance from the Magic’s backup power forward. Orlando was without Dwight Howard, Mickael Pietrus, JJ Redick and Jameer Nelson. A huge chunk of the offense — and defense, for that matter — was missing as Orlando returned to face its longtime nemesis in Detroit.

But with Brandon Bass, who needs them?

OK, the performance he put in Friday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills is not likely one he will be able to repeat. But a career-high 27 points filled with energy and just plaint brutishness will do the job against the struggling Pistons. Bass, Vince Carter and Quentin Richardson led a concerted and focused effort that never let up, especially once the team settled in.

The Magic overcame the loss of arguably their two best players to defeat the Pistons 104-91 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The decision was made before tip off to send Dwight Howard and Mickael Pietrus home with the same stomach ailment that knocked JJ Redick out of Wednesday’s game. Jameer Nelson started feeling sick as the team prepared for shootaround and neither he nor Redick were ready to go by tip off. So the Magic entered the game with only nine players.

And eight of those nine players (Ryan Anderson rolled his ankled going up for a rebound and sprained his foot 28 seconds into entering the game) played about as well as anyone could hope.

After a shaky first half defensive effort (again), the defense tightened up and allowed only 36 points. That was enough for an offense that was seemingly unstoppable.

Bass, as mentioned, had 27 points. He did a lot of his work in the second and fourth quarters. Vince Carter, who scored 25 points and dished out nine assists, scored the team’s first nine points and took over in the fourth quarter as the Magic built off of a third quarter run that was largely fueled by the 3-point shooting of Rashard Lewis and Quentin Richardson.

As a team, the Magic shot 59.7 percent from the floor and had a 64.6% effective field goal percentage. This on a night where the pace was slowed down and the Magic gave up 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Orlando kept a tight lid on the boards outrebounding Detroit 35-22. Marcin Gortat had another double double in Dwight Howard’s stead with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

There was not a whole lot for Stan Van Gundy, or any Magic fan to be too upset about.

Detroit did shoot 9 for 18 from beyond the arc and Orlando did seem to lose track of Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton at odd times. But after a first half where the the Magic were late on rotations and hoping for misses, the defense tightened up. The Magic may have had better, more complete wins this season (see Wednesday night), but they have likely not had games where they had to fight as hard.

All eight guys who played tonight played extremely hard and left everything on the floor.

Carter especially looked comfortable with the ball in his hands. The Orlando Sentinel ran a story this morning talking about how Carter was trying to fit himself into the offense still. It may not be a successful way for an entire season, but Carter dominating the ball tonight did whatever he wanted and got wherever he wanted. Rarely did he pull up for mid-range jumpers. He attacked from the post. And after burning off nine straight points and setting the tone for the entire game offensively, he started dishing the ball.

His nine assists kept everyone involved as the Magic always seemed to find the hot hand, whether it was Bass, Richardson or Lewis at certain points in this game.

Carter really did set the tone. He was the one that really stepped up his defensive intensity in the second half as Orlando tightened things up and stopped Detroit cold. The Pistons could not match the defensive intensity and having no inside presence to deal with Bass and Gortat, who pass to each other on the interior surprisingly well, were eventually worn down from the inside out.

It was very fitting that it was Rashard Lewis’ corner three off Orlando’s trademark ball reversals that seemed to put this game away.

What you have to like is there were no excuses for being undermanned. Van Gundy said he expected to win tonight even with only nine guys. And to a man, the Magic said they believe they are good enough to win with the group they had.

They proved that. The depth of this team showed its value and picked up a gutsy road win. 

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily