The Pistons returned with more energy in their revenge game after losing to the Magic earlier in the week. In the first game, Nikola Vucevic tore up the Pistons’ defense with 37 points and 12 rebounds. This time around, they were certain to make Vucevic’s life as difficult as possible.
Vucevic ended with 20 points and nine rebounds on 9-for-22 shooting. The Pistons were physical with him, often pushing him far away from the paint on post-ups and crowding him at all points. That was the kind of mentality the Pistons took with them throughout the game in stifling the Magic’s offense.
This was a bad loss of the Magic as they hoped to capitalize on their newfound momentum after losing a string of games in early February. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak, their longest since Markelle Fultz’s injury in early January.
Despite having more turnovers than the Magic, the Pistons played a solid 48 minutes and got their ninth win of the season.
There was a multitude of problems that plagued the Magic. Turnovers, sloppy passes and bad shot selection gave the Pistons opportunities they were eager to take advantage of.
Add on a 14-point third quarter, the Magic were never really able to get back into the game in the second half.
In the past five games, the Magic were second in defensive rating, third in opponent points scored and fifth in opponent field goal percentage. Their defensive efforts were evident from behind the arc as the Magic limited the Pistons to 29.4-percent from three on 34 attempts.
However, the Magic’s defense in the paint is what costed them. The Pistons scored 56 points in the paint as opposed to the Magic’s 36.
In the previous game against the Pistons, the Magic shot 26 for 29 from the free-throw line. In this game, the Magic only shot 13 for 22 as the Pistons were keen on not fouling. And the Magic left those opportunities on the board, allowing a close game to get away from them.
The sometimes jittery energy the Pistons played with throughout the game put the Magic on their heels. Orlando was never quite able to recover.
A career night from Pistons two-way player Saben Lee, a solid performance from Dennis Smith Jr. and a relentless attack from Josh Jackson ultimately was too much for the Magic.
But there were some signs of life from the Magic, some signs that will hopefully extend beyond this forgettable loss.
As previously mentioned, going into the game, the Magic were able to put together one of the league’s best defenses and have developed a deadly three-man offense. As Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier are sure to bounce back from this game, the Magic are in good hands.
If they continue to play smart team basketball, the Magic will soon find themselves as a lock for the playoffs.
NIKOLA VUCEVICC, Orlando Magic
Nikola Vucevic started off slow in the first half but managed to claw himself back into the mix early in the third quarter. But shooting 9 for 22 and 2 for 8 from three just could not cut it.
Mason Plumlee made Nikola Vucevic’s life especially difficult as he denied entry passes, guarded Vucevic at the three-point line and was physical throughout the whole game. Detroit Pistons rookie Isaiah Stewart also seemed to have not forgotten Vucevic’s 37 point night and sought to be as disruptive as possible.
This game may have been a foreshadowing of the playoffs. If opposing Eastern Conference teams are able to correctly gameplan for Vucevic and seek to disrupt him at every post-up, hook shot and three-point attempt, the Orlando Magic could find themselves in some trouble. But, Vucevic has shown time and time again his ability to maneuver himself back into games.
TERRENCE ROSSG/F, Orlando Magic
Terrence Ross tried his best, especially in the second quarter to bring the Orlando Magic back into the game. After the starters left the floor in the second quarter, Terrence Ross proceeded to score eight straight and would bring the Magic within two by the half.
His contributions in the second quarter and his four steals and eight rebounds would not be able to reel in the rolling Pistons.
The Pistons had no problem getting physical with several of the Magic players. While Ross seems to excel at shooting in traffic and shooting through contact, several of the Detroit guards were able to bother Ross’ shot on multiple occasions.
Ross will need to be able to extend his impact beyond short spurts throughout the game. This game was a good example as he was able to contribute on the defensive end as well as on the offensive end. However, getting others involved and taking smart shots will not only elevate his own play but his teammates play as well.
EVAN FOURNIERG/F, Orlando Magic
Similar to Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier struggled to get going throughout the entirety of the game. At times, Svi Mykhailiuk was able to blow past Evan Fournier and score at the rim and his continual attack always had Fournier one step behind.
Fournier finished with 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting from the field and 3-for-8 from three. The Pistons must have gone back and watched film from the last game. Fournier only shot 3 for 6 from the free-throw line compared to 12 for 13 the previous game.
This kind of play from Fournier will most likely not persist. Going into the Magic’s next game against the Nets, who have hit their stride recently, Fournier will need to show up in a big way if the Magic hope to get back on track.
CHASSON RANDLEG, Orlando Magic
While his teammates had bad games, Chasson Randle quietly had himself a decent game. Randle finished with nine points on 3-for-4 shooting from the field and 2 for 3 from behind the arc. He also added two rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes of play.
Michael Carter-Williams’ return to the lineup has been nothing but positive as he has had a major impact on the defensive end. But in the situation where Michael Carter-Williams is not able to provide much offensive value, Chasson Randle will need to step up.
His performance tonight was the best of his past three appearances and the Magic will need him to continue to bring scoring off the bench. If his three-point shooting improves as the season progresses, Randle could find himself playing important minutes.
DETROIT PISTONS9-22, 15th East
Riding on a career night from their second-round pick, Saben Lee, the Detroit Pistons got their revenge on the Orlando Magic. Lee scored a career-high 21 points and more importantly shot 3 for 3 from three. His outside shooting was a major concern entering the draft but this game should be a promising sign for the rebuilding Pistons.
Dennis Smith Jr., who was recently acquired via trade, also showed signs of life. Smith Jr. was riding the bench for the New York Knicks and possibly on his way to the G-League. The former lottery pick finished with 14 points, one steal and two blocks and had the second-highest plus-minus on the team.
While there were several bright spots in their win, the Pistons still have work to do. Trading Blake Griffin is one of their main concerns but also deciding the team’s rebuilding strategy.
Other than that, a good win.
The Magic are now 13-19 and 12th in the Eastern Conference. They return to action Thursday in Brooklyn against the star-powered Brooklyn Nets.