Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 105, Detroit Pistons 96

Nikola Vucevic put in another star performance to lead the Orlando Magic to a win. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
Nikola Vucevic put in another star performance to lead the Orlando Magic to a win. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports /

96. 64. 105. 38. Final

If Nikola Vucevic was trying to make a statement as the Eastern Conference coaches prepare to vote for the reserves for the All-Star team, he made quite the final word.

For your consideration, may I present Nikola Vucevic’s All-Star candidacy.

There are even fewer words to describe the work Vucevic is putting in and how much it transforms the Orlando Magic. He was again the center of attention and there was little any defender could do to slow him down.

The Detroit Pistons could never settle on a good defensive scheme to slow him down. They tried stunting — which was a mistake as Vucevic carefully waited to see what the defense would do before exploiting the holes the Pistons gave him — and when they tried to double him, it was far too late. The Magic had their rhythm.

Vucevic’s final All-Star statement was for 37 points on 14-for-27 shooting, adding 12 rebounds and two blocks for good measure. The Pistons had no answers for him.

And that left them with no answers for the Magic.

Nikola Vucevic made a final statement for the Orlando Magic as they picked up their third straight win and continued to re-establish their defensive idenitty.

Orlando raced ahead behind its starters and led comfortably most of the night. The team’s defense did the rest, contesting shots, digging out steals and blocking shots. It did not lead to the complete blowout the Magic likely would have preferred but it was still a win built on the strength of their defense.

The Pistons got as close as three points in the third quarter. But Vucevic hit a three in response to make it a six-point game and the Magic extended their lead back out to double-digits for a 105-96 victory.

Orlando tallied eight blocks in the game and allowed Detroit to shoot 37.4-percent and 11 for 40 from beyond the arc. The Magic’s defense was on point the entire night, scrambling to stay in front of the Pistons and halting any run that came against them.

Orlando has found its defensive spark in the last few weeks. And that was enough to help them overcome some lackluster offense outside of their best three players.

A. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

There are not a whole lot more words that need to be said about Nikola Vucevic. He is carrying this team and is the central focus of every play and every team. They are starting to run out of defenses they can throw at him. Unless they have one of the best defenders in the league, they are out of options to stop Vucevic. He is figuring everything out and beating it.

He scored 37 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. About the only thing that stopped him was his occasional missed shot. He found open space with ease and showed incredible patience and poise waiting for the Detroit Pistons to reveal where he was going to attack. And then he just attacked it, beating the Pistons at every turn.

A-. . G/F. Orlando Magic. EVAN FOURNIER

Nikola Vucevic is getting all the headlines right now, and deservedly so. But Vucevic alone is not enough to win many of these games. He gets them to the door and does all that he needs to do and a whole lot more, but it is Evan Fournier that has helped them climb over the top. Since his return from a weekslong absence with back spasms, he has been a dominant force.

Evan Fournier topped his season-high from Friday’s win over the Golden State Warriors with 29 points in Sunday’s game against the Detroit Pistons. He added seven assists and seven rebounds too. Fournier was in complete control of his game, shooting confidently and working off the dribble effectively. He manipulated the defense on several occasions to get to the foul line and unlock the interior.

Orlando Magic. TERRENCE ROSS. B+. . G/F

Like Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross has been on a tear lately. He has started to find his rhythm shooting from deep again and that has unlocked his offense and given the Orlando Magic a huge spark. He scored 17 points on 3-for-5 shooting and 7-for-16 shooting overall. That is what Terrence Ross does. His job is to shoot. And so he has to make. That is what has happened lately as he has become the team’s reliable third scorer.

The lineups Ross is playing in are not helping matters though. He is leading the second-unit groups and there is not much for him to work with. The team is stalling out with the bench united with Ross as the primary — really, the only — option. Ross has to work better to try to get others involved, but it is really more about the Magic making sure Ross is paired with more players who can create a little bit to give him space.

Orlando Magic. AL-FAROUQ AMINU. B+. . F

Al-Farouq Aminu earned his first start of the season and saw his minutes bump up to 18 minutes. The forward had a long and well-noted journey to get back on the court. And he has slowly started to get more responsibility and comfort on the court. Al-Farouq Aminu is still not producing much in the way of counting stats — three points, six rebounds and four steals.

Those latter two stats probably matter more for showing where Aminu is at. He is always in the right spot defensively and always making an impact. Aminu was moving around a lot better and making the kind of plays the Magic signed him to make. There is still a ways to go — and he is also clearly holding the place for Chuma Okeke as he continues to get experience and consistency. Al-Farouq Aminu, notably, did not get the initial call to defend Jerami Grant, perhaps a sign of where the team thinks he is at.

B-. . 8-22. 15th East. DETROIT PISTONS

The Detroit Pistons are still seeking their way to play and their way to scratch out wins. The Pistons have dealt with their share of injuries. But really it is their lack of depth. The Pistons have plenty of energetic players who get after teams and opponents. Detroit never went away in this one. But the Pistons just do not have the talent right now to compete consistently — despite their big wins already on their ledger.

They did some things well but ultimately shot too poorly to take advantage of them. Detroit attacked the offensive glass well for nine offensive rebounds (seven in the first half). The Pistons got 24 points from Jerami Grant. But they got little else from the rest of the team, unable to take advantage of the Magic’s weakest moments.

Next. Defense is the base for the Orlando Magic to grow. dark

The Magic are now 13-18 and 12th in the Eastern Conference. They return to action Tuesday against the Pistons at Amway Center to finish their four-game homestand.