Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 119, Detroit Pistons 112

Ignas Brazdeikis made his Orlando Magic debut and made a quick impact in a win. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Ignas Brazdeikis made his Orlando Magic debut and made a quick impact in a win. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

119. 38. 112. 64. Final

The Orlando Magic could have easily fallen off the pace again. The Detroit Pistons dominated the first quarter in an ugly affair befitting two of the worst teams in the league.

They could have easily folded and accepted their fate. A bad night for a bad team.

The Magic certainly seemed to have a rotation plan that would do that. Only three starters played more than 20 minutes and only one played more than 25 — Moritz Wagner’s 41. This was not a team that was necessarily setting itself up to win.

But this is a young team too. And they have a lot to prove. A lot of guys are aiming for their futures in the NBA. And no opportunity should go missed.

R.J. Hampton woke the Magic from that slumber with a stellar first half that carried over into the second half and from his career-best game. Dwayne Bacon made the most of his third quarter to help extend the Magic’s lead.

Then in the fourth quarter, it was a group of players the Magic probably never even considered they would need a week ago, let alone at the beginning of the season.

Who is Moritz Wagner, Chasson Randle and Ignas Brazdeikis? Seriously, who are they? Wagner was the only starter to play in the fourth quarter and that was only because someone had to for all the other starters to sit out the entire quarter.

The Magic still managed to build a 14-point lead in the quarter and watch it whittle down to three. Orlando just had more plays to finish the game.

In a game between two teams that seemed to build lineups more interested in ping pong balls, the Orlando Magic prevailed thanks to a strong effort and some surprising growth.

R.J. Hampton recorded his career-high 10th assist on a slick pass to the corner to Ignas Brazdeikis to extend the lead back out to six. Mohamed Bamba scored 16 of his career-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, including a clutch face-up jumper over Isaiah Stewart.

Neither team put out lineups designed to help them win. The Magic just had the plays and the lead long enough to get recorded as the winner in a 119-112 win at Little Caesars Arena on Monday.

So tip your cap to some players who do not usually get to close games for showing out and holding on for a win. Even if that ultimately hurts the team’s lottery chances — it is doubtful the Magic will finish with the second-worst record and their grip on one of the best odds to win the Lottery is tenuous now.

Players do not care about that. They were told to play and they played to win.

A. . G. Orlando Magic. R.J. HAMPTON

The Orlando Magic were struggling to find much of a rhythm in the first quarter. The Detroit Pistons were in the lead and seemed to be in control. Free throws were the only thing keeping the Magic in it. Then R.J. Hampton happened. He immediately injected some pace into the game, getting downhill to the rim and forcing the defense to react. Hampton was able to get where he wanted.

But the most impressive part about Hampton’s 16-point, 10-assist and seven-rebound effort was the pace he played. Not necessarily the breakneck speed where he throws himself at the rim and hopes to get a decent shot (that still happened, but not as much). But the controlled pace that put him in command. He was pulling the defense on the string firing passes to open players. For the first time, Hampton looked like he was in complete control rather than letting his speed control him.

. C. Orlando Magic. MOHAMED BAMBA. B+

Mohamed Bamba is obviously still a work in progress. There has always been just enough to keep everyone engaged and interested. That is just how it works in the NBA. His first half especially was a huge struggle. He jumped on every pump fake and gave up easy paths to the basket. He was not able to shoot the ball particularly well to make up for it.

Bamba’s second half was much better. And maybe his fourth quarter was the best output of his career. He scored 16 of his career-high 22 points in the fourth quarter and then added 15 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds. The patient and disciplined Bamba has started to look like a productive player. Especially when he rebounds this well. The last three games especially have seen Bamba rebound much better outside of his area. That has helped boost his game a ton and increase his impact.

. SF. Orlando Magic. IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS. A-

The Orlando Magic signed Ignas Brazdeikis on Sunday. He literally joined the team on the plane to Detroit and was probably still picking things up on the fly. The team, probably planning for the eventuality and likelihood that both Terrence Ross and Chuma Okeke are done for the year, signed another wing to help them get through these final games. Brazdeikis has shown some shooting ability but is very much a fringe NBA player.

But Brazdeikis delivered a whole lot more with 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting. He was really good at finding his way inside the lane and in between defenders. He squeezed out a few shots that probably surprised the defense and made a living in the paint. For someone who was probably still learning the plays, he sure seemed like he fit right in. Will all that continue? That is a fair question. But playing hard is a good first impression.

B. . G/F. Orlando Magic. DWAYNE BACON

Dwayne Bacon is going to be the barometer for the Orlando Magic most nights between a game they can be competitive in and a game they will get absolutely worked. That is the simple reality. Bacon when he is given a ton of minutes will shoot the team in and out of games and in and out of rhythm. That was the case in the first half when Bacon was just hoisting shots and unable to get going.

The third quarter was a different story. Bacon scored five of his nine points in the quarter, including a bruising layup over Isaiah Steward for an and-one. That really seemed to wake the team up and help them keep the lead. Bacon was solid otherwise.

DETROIT PISTONS. C. . 19-46. 15th East

The Detroit Pistons are not a good team. Not only that, it is hard to say they are trying to win. Mason Plumlee is officially out because of rest. It does not seem like that is something the league would look kindly on. But here we are. Detroit plays hard and the team has some tough players, but not a lot of NBA talent. Even the Orlando Magic’s best tanking efforts were not enough.

The only good thing from the Pistons these days comes from rookie Saddiq Bey (26 points, 5-for-10 shooting from deep) and super-sub Frank Jackson (19 points). Otherwise, there is not much to write home about or to hang onto for the future (Killian Hayes’ early passing ability is about the only thing). The Pistons are a bad team. And the Magic were able to break them down with simple execution, confidence and energy.

Next. Gary Harris scratching the surface of impact. dark

The Magic have won two games in a row and improve to 21-44, 14th in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando has been eliminated from the playoffs and hold the fourth-best odds to win the NBA Draft Lottery with seven games remaining. They will be eliminated from receiving the top odds to win the Lottery with any combination of eight wins or eight more Minnesota Timberwolves losses. They will be eliminated from receiving the ninth-best Lottery odds with any combination of two losses or two Sacramento Kings wins.

The Orlando Magic return to action at the Amway Center on Wednesday against the Boston Celtics.