There were not any nuggets of wisdom for Jacque Vaughn to share after Orlando put the finishing touches on a 90-74 victory over Detroit at Amway Center on Wednesday. There was no inspirational speech or enlightening words for Vaughn — or really anyone — to share to explain what happened in the third quarter.
It really might have been as simple as the team putting in the right energy and effort coming out of the locker room, having the proper focus, and then some pure dumb luck.
What the Pistons did in the third quarter of Wednesday's game set several Magic defensive records.
"I wish I would've said something that was worth saying again, but it was a few adjustments we made," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "And guys had a great concentration level."
Detroit scored eight points, tied for the lowest mark in a third quarter in Orlando history, and shot 2 for 21 (9.5 percent). The Pistons did not record their first points in the second half for 9:45 and did not record their first field goal in the second half for 10:03. That gave Orlando the chance to go on a 21-0 run and put the game effectively out of reach, turning a three-point halftime deficit into a 15-point third quarter advantage.
Andrew Nicholson led the team with 15 points off the bench. Glen Davis posted a double double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Jameer Nelson had 10 points and seven assists and J.J. Redick matched that with 11 points and seven assists of his own.
The crazy part was, even the Pistons had to admit, the Magic did not do much different as the Magic freely admitted when talking about the mood of the halftime locker room.
"Nothing. He came in here and said nothing," Glen Davis said. "We looked at the film, and said, ‘Let’s go play hard.’ And that was it. Just keep doing what we’re doing and we’re going to win this ball game, and that was it."
After another somewhat slow start, Orlando's defense began to kick in a bit more and close down Detroit. The Pistons still were able to get the ball down into the paint to Greg Monroe, but eventually that too got choked off — particularly in the second half when Glen Davis was no longer in foul trouble.
Monroe scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Detroit scored 32 of its 40 points in the paint in the first half. After shooting 48.8 percent in the first half and 16 for 28 in the paint, the Pistons managed to shoot only 8 for 44 (18.2 percent) in the second half and score only eight points in the paint on 4-for-19 shooting.
The Magic's defense did a lot more than just lock down the Pistons. They flat out shut them out with a 45-26 advantage in the second half and a lead as large as 26 points in the fourth quarter, where the Pistons started the first 3:02 without scoring a basket, giving up a 7-0 run to start the quarter.
Orlando got its offense moving well enough to take advantage of the long scoring drought. The Magic allowed their defense to feed their offense as Orlando had 17 fast break points, including eight in the second quarter when Orlando had to respond to yet another slow start.
"It’s a cyclical thing because for us to play good defense, we have to play good offense. And for us to play good offense, we have to play good defense," J.J. Redick said. "A lot of times this season, when we’ve played poor offense, whether it’s turnovers or bad shots, the other team comes down and is going against our unset defense and scores and then we have to go back against their set defense. If you take care of the basketball, if that’s one of the foundations of your team, you’re going to be successful most nights. I think that was a big thing for us tonight."
Indeed, the Magic still committed 15 turnovers, but gave up only 12 points off those turnovers and did a good job resetting their defense and preventing fastbreak opportunities for Detroit to break that slump. While the Pistons were struggling, they had to go up against the Magic's set defense because the Magic were shooting 10 for 20 in the third quarter. Detroit committed six turnovers resulting in eight Orlando points in the period.
That quarter told a good portion of the story for the game. Orlando took advantage of the slump and helped keep Detroit in that downward spiral.
"I wish I could explaint it to you, I can't down 17-0," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "We were off to a very good start. I thought we let down right there in the last couple of minutes [of the first quarter]. We had a poort start to the second quarter, gave up 12 points in the first six minutes. I didn't like the way we played there and then to open up the third quarter was embarrassing."
It certainly was a rough night for the Pistons. The Magic put together a strong defensive performance, one the team certainly seemed content with afterward. Does it put behind the struggles from the end of the road trip last week? Perhaps that can only be answered after Friday's game against a struggling Cleveland team.