The Magic offense needed a major pick-me-up after down performances in the first half against the Knicks, the second half against the Kings and the entire game against the Jazz. The homestand decidedly had not gone the way the Magic expected thanks to the unkind irons at Amway Center.
Let Friday night serve as a reminder that sometimes the easiest offense is generated because of the team’s defense.
Orlando shot 52.9 percent from the floor and scored 14 fast break points, attacking the paitn against the big Pistons front line. It was not the intuitive gameplan, but Jacque Vaughn’s small lineup played with energy and effort in helping the Magic build a 22-point lead in the second half and easily put the Pistons away for a 109-92 win at Amway Center on Friday night, the first win on this six-game homestand in four tries.
“Defense creates for our offense,” Victor Oladipo said. “When we do a good job playing defense, it’s easier for us to score on the other end so we just got to continue building on that too.”
The whole Magic team looked refreshed after a few days off for the Christmas holiday and played with a ton of energy and aggression, something decidedly missing in previous losses.
Detroit’s final lead with 3:26 left in the first quarter. Orlando just would not let go after grabbing the advantage and used their defense to feed the offense. The Pistons shot just 41.1 percent from the floor and after scoring 18 points in the first half, Brandon Jennings scored only three in the second half. The big man trio of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith combined for 21 points on 10-for- 34 shooting. The Pistons key players were finding it tough against a small Magic lineup.
Jacque Vaughn said he decided to go small, playing Tobias Harris at the four and Glen Davis at the five for much of the first and second quarters as Orlando built its lead. The strategy worked because the Magic were willing to attack the paint and move the ball, going away from some of the isolation post ups that characterized games of late.
Making shots did not hurt either.
Arron Afflalo led the way with 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting. Nikola Vucevic scored 20 points to go with 11 rebounds. Tobias Harris also had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Victor Oladipo finished the trio of triple doubles with 16 points and a career-high 11 assists (to go with one turnover, although Pistons point guards knocked the ball away from him several times as he tried to bring the ball up the floor).
This was a game where the Magic potentially could have fallen apart some with the reality of a big lead at the half. Instead, the Magic doubled down and increased the lead, making the seocnd half feel pro forma. The Pistons got no closer than the seven-point halftime deficit.
“I think it was a challenge for our guys,” Jacque Vaughn said. “We go in [up] seven at the half, and I think our guys realized on the way out that there was going to be a chance for this team — Detroit to either crawl back into the game or for us to extend the lead and that comes from juts being in games and experiencing and sometimes experiencing them on the losing end and understanding what that feels like. So, I think that coming out at halftime we have a really good approach.”
Vaughn’s sometimes curious lineup decisions panned out tonight. Take Ronnie Price’s four and a half minute stint in the second quarter. Price twice helped dig out loose balls and scored seven points including a fast-break left-handed slam that ignited the Amway Center crowd. His minutes were a big boost.
The Magic found those little pockets of energy and it helped propel the team throughout the night. They were finally the aggressors and that equals wins.
More importantly, the Magic seemed to return to their identity that has led to most of their victories — a team with an opportunistic defense that gets out on the break for easy buckets. This was clearly where a player like Oladipo was most effective distributing the ball and helping the team generate offense.
Tobias Harris concurred, acknowledging that the Magic are truly a hard team to cover when they get out on the break. It helps settle the team down offensively and is a sign the defense is getting stops.
“When we’re good defensively, we tend to be better offensively, which is not necessarily a good thing,” Afflalo said. “We were good defensively tonight. We started out with a good first quarter. Usually when you get stops, you get fast break buckets and get some 3-point shots to go. I thought we had a good, effective night.”
That about sums it up. The Magic found a mini-formula to get one win. Now the trick is repeating it and doing it again the next time out.