The phrase "No Rip? No Problem" started the headline of the Associated Press' recap of the first meeting between these two teams this season. Eliminate the two negatives in the phrase and you're left with "Rip? Problem"... which is exactly what we faced tonight. Richard "Rip" Hamilton scored 32 points on 14-of-22 shooting to lead the Pistons in a curb-stomping against us tonight.
Just a bad game. The Magic, as usual, had no answer for Hamilton or for Chauncey Billups, who repeatedly broke-down our sub-standard defense and got the shots they wanted, usually uncontested. The Magic ended the third quarter on a 14-2 run after getting some much-needed stops, but obviously never capitalized against a team that is clearly in a higher class.
The frustrating thing is, as badly as we played, we could have been right there at the end with a better effort. Letting the Pistons rebound 40% of their own misses is inexcusable, and we have done better against them; they only got 27% in the first meeting and 26% in the second one, which is about average. And I don't know what it is about Detroit, but we just do not capitalize on our free-throw attempts against them: 25-of-39 tonight, 75-of-109 overall. Beating them on Monday did nothing to boost our confidence, as they appear to have a mental advantage on us.
This game leaves me asking lots of questions, but there's one answer it's given me: we have a long way to go to get to Detroit's level. We absolutely have to beat Boston on Sunday if we are to have any shot of legitimizing ourselves in the East. Right now, I'd put the Celtics, Pistons, Cavaliers, and Raptors ahead of us, with the Wizards not far behind. If we don't pick up the defensive intensity, we're looking at another first-round playoff exit.
I feel somewhat obligated to say something nice about one of our players, so I'll get to it:
- Carlos Arroyo deserves recognition for his 16-point, 6-assist effort, 1-turnover effort. He gets bonus points for throwing an elbow at Billups late in the game. Yeah, it was a cheap play, and it's not one that I usually advocate. But the Pistons dish out a lot of punishment, and it was nice to see at least one player take it to them.
- Hedo Turkoglu had a decent third-quarter and was probably our best hope at winning the game; he had his midrange jumper going, which was nice.
- Keyon Dooling didn't play great, but came back in the second half after having to be helped off the floor in the first half with a knee contusion. Way to play through pain, Keyon.
- Jameer Nelson, although inactive, enhanced my viewing experience by wearing a sharp tan suit, a blue shirt, and a blue-and-silver tie. It was glorious in HD.
No donuts tomorrow. I'm disappointed, and I'm sure Brian Cook is too.