Orlando Magic run out of time as Detroit Pistons pull away

Apr 6, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) reacts after missing a crucial 3 point shot during the closing seconds in the second half of a basketball game against the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center. The Pistons won 108-104. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) reacts after missing a crucial 3 point shot during the closing seconds in the second half of a basketball game against the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center. The Pistons won 108-104. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic saw control over the game slip late in the fourth quarter and were unable to execute as the Detroit Pistons escaped with a win.

64. Final. 104. 38. 108

So many times, the Orlando Magic have seen the clock tick down and seen their play get tighter and tighter. Whenever games are close, you can almost feel the vice tightening, wondering where the execution breakdowns are going to come.

The story has played out time and time again this season.

The Orlando Magic on Wednesday did not have the epic collapse or complete breakdown they have had in games past. They did not have the boneheaded mistakes that cost them games in the past.

It was really just a series of decisions that led the Magic to a 108-104 loss to the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center on Wednesday. It was really just a Magic team getting out-executed, missing timely shots and failing to get the stops when it absolutely had to. And then eventually time ran out.

ScoreOff. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR

Reggie Jackson (DET) — 24 pts.; Andre Drummond (DET) — 13 pts., 16 rebs.
Evan Fournier (ORL) — 19 pts.; Nikola Vucevic (ORL) — 15 pts., 13 rebs.

Decisions like Elfrid Payton‘s decision to foul with 29 seconds left in the game.

Perhaps this was inexperience in close games or something else, but with the Magic trailing by two points after Nikola Vucevic split a pair of free throws, Payton opted to foul Reggie Jackson in the backcourt intentionally. The play did get his coaches up with a somewhat befuddled look on their faces.

Jackson made both free throws and the Magic had to scramble to get back in. They did cut it to one on an Evan Fournier and-1 lay in, but Fournier’s 3-pointer on the next possession fell no good.

The decision from Payton did not work out. And it was a decision from Payton directly.

“Personally, I figured five seconds wouldn’t be enough seeing as we weren’t doing really well on the board tonight,” Payton said of his decision. “That was my thinking about it. Still we had a chance. Technically it didn’t work out, but we were still in a good position I thought.”

Payton’s calculations were correct. The Magic were struggling offensively, but were also struggling to keep the Pistons off the glass. Orlando gave up 12 offensive rebounds although Detroit only scored four points on second-chance opportunities.

Late in the game, the Magic had two rebound opportunities that were sent to replay. One was overturned as Andre Drummond was able to knock a rebound away, the other the Magic were able to hold on to.

In either case, Orlando was struggling to close defensive possessions, a highlight of a defense that was pulled somewhat apart throughout the game.

The Magic struggled to cut Reggie Jackson off late and keep him from the lane. Eventually he would parade to the foul line, find others or make the shot himself. He took 11 free throw attempts in scoring 24 points. He was not super efficient — 7 for 18 from the floor — but continually attacked the Magic late.

The problem was even more acute on the offensive end. Orlando struggled to move the ball efficiently for most of the night — Scott Skiles characterized it as a one-on-one contest at certain points of the game — and the ball got stuck.

The one possession perhaps they did move the ball, it swung beautifully to Evan Fournier who drove in, sucked the defense in and kicked it back to Aaron Gordon for a 3-pointer with two minutes to play and the Magic trailing by three. The shot rimmed out, one of a number of open jumpers that just would not fall.

“I kind of felt one coming, in the flow of the game,” Gordon said. “I hadn’t gotten a shot in a while so I knew my shot was coming. Played in the flow and there it was and Evan found me. Made sure I shot it right, went three-quarters of the way down and popped out. It doesn’t count.”

The Magic still shot 47.8 percent from the floor and 83 points in the final three quarters. The Magic were no pushovers on the offensive end, racking up 25 assists on 43 makes.

The lack of ball movement seemed only to come at those critical moments. The Pistons locked in on several occasions and closed out well on shooters. Gordon said the team took what the defense gave them throughout the game.

The Magic have plenty of capable players to take advantage of those gaps and at various times they did — Victor Oladipo had 16 points, Elfrid Payton had 17 points, Nikola Vucevic had 15 and Evan Fournier had 19.

Still, that was not enough. Not when the moments really mattered. Orlando took a seven-point lead when Mario Hezonja dropped Reggie Bullock with a spin move and hit a turnaround jumper. The Pistons would tie the game and the Magic would take the lead back out.

Detroit then went on a 12-2 run to go up five and take the lead for good. The Magic could not hold them off any longer. And they could not find their way into the paint, turning it over twice and taking nothing but jumpers for the next three minutes.

“We had a lead, but we never really could get away from them,” Nikola Vucevic said. “Reggie Bullock made one or two threes. It’s just making plays. At the end, we had looks that we couldn’t make. They were able to score and get to the foul line.”

That played a role in the end too. The Pistons were continuing to come at the Magic with Reggie Jackson attacking them in the pick and roll time and time again.

It all came together, these key decisions and these key moments to deliver another difficult defeat for the Magic. Orlando was in control for most of the game with Detroit seemingly coming.

The Magic eventually relented to the Pistons, unable to get quality shots at the end of the game. As has been the story so many times before.

Whether it was real or not, the Magic had run out of time. Dropped into a defeat of their own doing.

“We just ran out of time,” Payton said. “They made a run at a crucial point. Hit a couple of big shots. We just didn’t execute. Missed some shots we usually make.”

Next: Orlando Magic reflect on what went wrong

The game can be that simple and that cruel sometimes. The Magic were looking at themselves for their poor execution and falling into the offensive pit they fell into at the end of the game.