The basketball gods are still exacting their vengeance on the Magic for some unknown divine reason.
Orlando had three chances to tip-in the game-tying basket after Jameer Nelson unintentionally missed the third of his three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-pointer with six seconds left. Davis was the first to get his chance, coming down and missing a lay in as he tried to climb and shoot over Greg Monroe. His miss was tipped by Nikola Vucevic who could not gain possession long enough to get a calmer shot. Jameer Nelson came flying in next and missed his tip in.
Vucevic tried deserpately to tip it toward the rim. Eventually it was knocked away and the red lights came on. All the Magic could do was watch the Pistons celebrate their 104-102 escape from Amway Center. Another loss and another chance squandered.
Frustration probably does not begin to describe Orlando's feelings after the team's 17th loss in 19 games.
There are plenty of positives that Jacque Vaughn and the players are sure to highlight. J.J. Redick scored a career-high tying 31 points on eight 3-pointers. E'Twaun Moore matched his career high with 18 points. Glen Davis recorded his first double double since December 7 with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Orlando. The Magic erased a double-digit deficit from the second quarter and kept fighting even if the execution was not perfect throughout.
Still, the Magic see the loss at the end and can only think about that at the end.
Coming down the stretch the Magic had some key possessions where they did not execute and the Pistons took advantage. Detroit got two 3-pointers from Brandon Knight, who scored a career-high 31 points, to give the Pistons a three-point lead. One of those came after Detroit clanked three 3-point attempts and grabbed the offensive rebound.
The Magic also had a chance down three points where J.J. Redick got caught in the air unable to make a decision and turned the ball over. It was these kind of key plays that would eventually catch the Magic and cost them in the end.
Throughout the game, turnovers seemed to make the difference. The Magic had two turnovers in the second half heading into the final moments, but then turned the ball over on several possessions or had plays that might as well been turnovers. Orlando committed 15 turnovers, leading to 21 Detroit points. The Pistons used strong transition play coming off the turnovers to build a 13-point lead in the second quarter answering a Magic 12-0 run with a 16-0 run in the middle of the second quarter.
It was that and Detroit's size that gave Orlando's offense so much trouble. Redick scored 16 of Orlando's first 20 points to get the team going. The Magic though were not getting inside very often though.
Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond did a good job repelling shots at the rim and changing shots in the paint. The Magic were tentative attacking the basket for much of the first half. So when Redick went out early in the first, it was no surprise that Detroit began to pull away.
Orlando changed that tact and began attacking. Jameer Nelson and E'Twaun Moore did a good job penetrating and getting into the paint. Glen Davis, awoken by a third quarter technical foul, started attacking the basket more and using his body to protect himself from blocked shots. Nelson had 18 points and eight assists to lead the Magic back into the game.
The Magic's defense though was still the problem eventually.
While Orlando did a good job neutralizing Greg Monroe and attacking the boards, Brandon Knight and Will Bynum attacked off the pick and roll and wreaked havoc in the paint, pulling apart Orlando's defense to get open 3-pointers or find the bigs down low.
For every good, it seemed like there was a still-gaping hole to fill. the Magic have some recurring and basic problems that need correcting. Until then, the Magic will be fighting against it and continuing to come short in close games like this one.