Orlando Magic embrace the power of 'We' in win over Detroit Pistons

The Orlando Magic were down two of their biggest energy and defensive players in Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Isaac on Friday night. They found their energy and they found ways to fill in and get back on track to defeat the Detroit Pistons.
Goga Bitadze gave the Orlando Magic a big energy boost to start the game, helping power the Magic past the Detroit Pistons.
Goga Bitadze gave the Orlando Magic a big energy boost to start the game, helping power the Magic past the Detroit Pistons. / Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

91. 64. Magic Pistons 12.08.23. 123. 38. Final

Before the game, Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said the team would need to work by committee to replace the energy they would lose from Jalen Suggs' absence.

Without a doubt, Suggs has been one of the best early stories of the season in the league and for the Orlando Magic. He has been something of a maniac and chaos agent for the Magic as they built one of the best defenses in the league through the early part of the season. He feeds off the energy from the home crowd as much as his hustle plays radiate out from him.

No one player can replace what he does. In general, no one player can carry this Magic team. They need everyone.

They need the power of "we" as coach Jamahl Mosley put it repeatedly after Friday's 123-91 win over the woeful Detroit Pistons. Everyone would need to step up and fill in and they would need to do it together.

"I'll keep going back to it: We. It's next man up mentality," Mosley said after Friday's win. "These guys get that and they understand it. We know if somebody is out that the next man has to step up to play the right way with the same amount of energy. And we have to find it from different people. You challenge guys and they took that challenge on. I'm extremely proud of the way these guys played for each other and they had a sense of joy while doing it."

There was no shortage of energy because everyone filled in and did their job to help make up for the absences in the lineup -- three starters now with Jalen Suggs out with a right ankle strain and Jonathan Isaac still out with a right ankle sprain. Orlando needed to find the energy to replace the irreplaceable.

They found it and kept the pressure on a disorganized and struggling Pistons team. Everyone on the roster took their turn making a big energy-changing play and keeping the team consistent throughout the game.

It started first with Goga Bitadze, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the first quarter and added four blocked shots. Those points -- all rim runs and putbacks as the Magic ran pick and rolls to attack the Pistons' interior -- just infused the Magic with some energy.

Orlando needed it to come from somewhere. And the team found it early from their big man just going to the rim and being physical in the paint.

"I don't think anybody can replace Jalen's energy honestly," Goga Bitadze said after Friday's game. "But I tried to protect the paint. We knew they were good attacking the basket. I'm a good shot blocker and it was huge."

Orlando ended up outscoring Detroit 74-44 in the paint. A dominant showing as the Magic bullied the Pistons around the basket. Even with Detroit's size starting Isaiah Stewart and Marvin Bagley III, Orlando won the paint, digging out deflections and steals whenever the Pistons got in the lane.

Orlando was not overly concerned with Detroit's shooting -- Detroit made only six of 30 3-pointers -- and Orlando's physicality certainly made a dent in Detroit. The Pistons could not answer, even by coach Monty Williams' admission.

That is part of what Magic basketball is and something the team lost a bit in the last five games and especially in the last two. The team needed a dominant showing in the paint and to lead the game with its physicality. The team did that and more.

"You've got to take the challenge," Franz Wagner said after Friday's win. "They're extremely physical and in all of their games, they're always competing. Starting out solid and just keep improving as the game goes on. I think it was a good thing today."

The energy the team got defensively and in the paint from Bitadze was clearly just the start.

Then there were the usual suspects.

Paolo Banchero scored 24 points and seemed determined to get to his spots and bully players around before stepping into fadeaway jumpers over the defense. He had the defense on a string.

Wagner said he kept things simple throughout the game, making 12 of 20 shots for a team-high 27 points. He had 12 of those in the fourth quarter including a wave goodbye toward the Magic bench as the team played with the swagger and confidence of the heavyweights they have been this season. Cole Anthony had 16 off the bench.

But it truly was everyone providing little sparks on both sides of the court to deliver the win.

The team turned to Caleb Houstan to help fill in some of those minutes lost to injured players and to Chuma Okeke to help out too, playing 13:08 and his first significant minutes of the season it felt like. Neither Okeke nor Houstan put in many counting stats, but they were excellent on defense to disrupt any hope the Pistons had of attacking from the perimeter.

Orlando did not relent and did not allow Detroit off the mat, a sign of growth from a young team to put away a struggling young team.

"I think we did an amazing job," Bitadze said. after Friday's game. "It's not a bad team. They have a lot of young guys, good athletes, young players. I think we took them really seriously. We did our job and what we had to do to protect the paint, rebound and get out and run."

This is the kind of game the Magic needed after those two losses in their previous two outings. It felt like Magic basketball with their intensity and energy. Everyone needed these moments and they needed things to feel easy.

Orlando had a few of those bell offensive plays with the ball whipping around the perimeter to get to open shots. Everyone touched it and moved to get open shots.

When the Pistons cut the deficit to 20 late in the third quarter, the Magic proceeded with three critical plays to go up 25 by the end of the quarter -- a Joe Ingles three off a pass from Paolo Banchero, a layup from Moe Wagner, a work-the-ball-around-the-horn three to Caleb Houstan from the corner and then an incredible shot and finish from Paolo Banchero.

Orlando put its foot down and it kept going back to the same message. The team had to do it together. Everyone played a role in finding that energy to power the Magic past the Pistons and win running away.

And that confidence goes to everyone once the energy is sparked.

"We've said it from training camp on, it's a we," Mosley repeated after Friday's game. "No matter who it is, who steps on the floor, they are ready to go. That's what it says about our coaching staff, about these guys taking ownership of who we are. That's what you saw tonight. Guys who stay ready and walk into any moment. Our guys celebrate that because that's who this group is."

That is who the Magic are. They needed some energy and they needed players to step in and step up.

dark. Next. 3 goals first quarter 12.06.23. 3 goals to reset after Orlando Magic's first 20 games

They answered the call and created the energy they were missing.