Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY
The Magic faced a tall order in their game against the Pistons. Quite literally.
It caused them to change their starting lineup and put Jason Maxiell in for Victor Oladipo to match up with the size of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The lineup change did not matter. Not with the Pistons taking control of the game in the second quarter with their size and offensive rebounding and then putting the game away by keeping the Magic out of the paint and out of sync.
A 9-0 run in the third quarter powered by the suddenly resurgent Brandon Jennings gave the Pistons a 15-point lead after the Magic started the third quarter strong. A 7-0 run early in the fourth quarter gave the Pistons as much as a 26-point lead. And that was all she wrote in Motown as the Pistons won 103-87 at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Tuesday.
Jennings scored 20 points on 7-for-19 shooting, missing his first eight shots but catching fire as the Pistons were able to pick up the pace as the Magic missed shots in the second half. Victor Oladipo led the Magic with 19 points, with much of it coming in garbage time with the game decided.
The Little Plays
The first place to start is with the rebounding.
The Pistons were hardly a model of offensive efficiency in the first half and first quarter in particular with the Magic able to set the tone. Of course, Orlando would have been able to gain more confidence and perhaps open a lead if they could grab a rebound.
Detroit outrebounded Orlando 56-40. That number is not so bad when you consider the Magic shot 41 percent from the floor. But 17 offensive rebounds is a major source of concern and explains the rebounding margin pretty satisfactorily. Detroit had 20 second chance points to Orlando's seven.
Andre Drummond was the main culprit on the glass with 17 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. Greg Monroe had had 11 rebounds himself too.
Asking the Magic to outrebound that duo without Nikola Vucevic was a tall order (pun!) for sure. To compete in this game, the Magic needed to do a better job on the glass.
Compounding the problem were the turnovers the Magic committed. Orlando had 16 turnovers that turned into 17 Detroit points.
These are little points the Magic need to lock down to get wins. Particularly while Vucevic is out and the Magic are struggling to finish defensive possessions and get rebounds.
Ball Movement Still Key
The first quarter and much of the second quarter looked like an offensive clinic for the Magic. The only reason the Pistons seemed to be in the game while shooting around 30 percent was because of their rebounding ability.
Orlando's offense was fluid and the team was looking to make the extra pass and get the best shot. The whole team really benefited.
Thsi kind of drive-and-dish ball movement stopped and the shots stopped falling too. Orlando is not a team that can rely on one-on-one play to generate a ton of offense. Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris are probably the best at getting to the basket. Oladipo is still learning how to finish and Harris is usually looking to score first.
That worked for them individually. Oladipo had 19 points while he was looking for his own shot late in the game. Harris had 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting. Obviously, those are not ways for the Magic to gain a ton of consistency on offense and less than 90 points will be the result.
Jameer Nelson was the engineer of the early offensive success, recording five of his seven assists in the first quarter. The Magic totaled 19 assists toal on 32 field goals. That is not a strong percentage for this Magic team and they have to find a way to score and create together.
Offense affects defense
It figured the dam would collapse at some point as the Magic continued to struggle to get their offense going.
For better or worse, this is a young team. Young teams tend to identify more on offense than they do on defense. And so their ability to hit shots affects their ability to defend.
That was certainly the case Tuesday night. The Magic's shots stopped falling, shoulders drooped and the team got discouraged.
Could that be an excuse for getting beat on the glass so thoroughly? It probably had a little to do with it. This is a team that still has to learn that defense comes first and a good defense can erase a lot of offensive shortcomings. That comes with learning to be a professional.
For now, the Pistons ability to extend possessions after "20 seconds of good defense," as Jacque Vaughn put it, and to keep attacking the Magic after missed shots put the Magic in too deep a hole too quickly.