In one of their most impressive all-around wins in recent memory, the Orlando Magic rallied in the second half to dispatch the Detroit Pistons, 104-91, despite missing four key rotation players. Vince Carter tallied season-highs wit 25 points, 9 assists, and 3 steals, while Brandon Bass came off Orlando's bench to score a career-best 27 points on 11-of-12 shooting in 32 minutes. Filling in for All-Star center Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat started for Orlando and contributed a solid 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks. The Magic withstood a strong outburst from Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince, whose outside jump-shooting stroke carried him to a 30-point outing.
I don't want to make too much of this win, but any team that can win decisively on the road minus four rotation guys deserves a lot of praise, no matter the opponent. This win serves as a prime example of how great teams find a way to win in the face of adversity. It's not like Orlando won a back-and-forth slog by a slim margin; no, it dominated the second half, outscoring Detroit, 50-36, thanks to top-notch execution and commitment.
The Magic needed Carter to shoulder the scoring load, and he did, picking his spots judiciously and converting at a high rate. They needed Bass to provide interior offense with Howard out, and he did. They needed their perimeter defenders to ratchet up the intensity with only Gortat behind them to block shots, and they did; I was particularly impressed with the commitment the Magic showed to taking charges, finishing with four on the night.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
Detroit led in the first half thanks to Prince and strong play from Rodney Stuckey, who looked to push the pace after Magic makes and misses, punishing Orlando for failing to get back defensively. But apart from Prince doing his finest impression of Rashard Lewis circa 2005, or Stuckey at his draw-and-kick best, the Pistons got very little offensively. Sure, Charlie Villanueva scored 15 points off their bench in 30 minutes, but Orlando can sort of live with him hoisting jumpers. The real key to slowing Detroit was, I thought, limiting their second-shot chances. And indeed the Magic rebounded 90.3% of the Pistons' misses.
Offensively, the Magic tried to get Carter going with high pick-and-roll action, and they let him freelance a bit. He didn't disappoint. They also looked to Lewis and Quentin Richardson in the post whenever they managed to force a switch or mismatch. Richardson carried the Magic by scoring 13 of his 15 points in the third period, and Detroit only stopped him when they figured out how to time entry passes made to him, poking them away for steals.
The real story tonight is Bass, though. Orlando's backup power forward used 15 shooting possessions on the night and scored on 14 of them, which is pretty unreal. Not even Jason Maxiell could stop Bass from bullying his way into the paint for easy buckets, and Bass complemented his inside game with accuracy on his long-range jumpers.
Looking up and down the Magic's roster, only Lewis (15 points, 6-of-14 shooting) stands out as someone who did not perform to expectation. Even Malik Allen, forced to play center due to the Magic's injuries, acquitted himself in his 17 minutes. The journeyman power forward only scored 2 points, and the Pistons outscored the Magic by one point in his court time, but he did exactly what was asked: give Bass and Gortat a breather and don't be a disaster. He finished with 2 points, 3 rebounds, and an assist. In a vacuum, that's poor production in 17 minutes' worth of work. But in the context of the game, Allen played well.
Orlando's off to Milwaukee for a game against the Bucks tomorrow night, their fifth in seven days. There may be a fatigue or letdown factor, but Orlando can probably deal with losing after such a strong showing tonight. I mean it: the way the Magic took care of business tonight bodes extremely well for them going forward. In Detroit, there's a locker room half-full of some very proud men.