Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE
Minus three rotation players, the Orlando Magic cruised to their biggest victory of the season Monday night, a 119-89 thrashing of the Detroit Pistons in which all five starters scored at least 14 points. Jason Richardson led all scorers, pouring in 22 points in 28 minutes on 7-of-10 shooting from the field in his best offensive performance since erupting for 31 points against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 11th. Glen Davis continued his torrid play, posting 16 points and 16 rebounds to go with a season-high five assists as he started at center in place of Dwight Howard, whom Orlando is resting due to back spasms. Orlando outscored Detroit in every period and led by as many as 33 points.
This game is one in which the Pistons did essentially nothing well defensively. They let Orlando score with ease both inside (44 points, 22-of-37 shooting in the paint) and outside (45 points, 15-of-28 shooting beyond the arc). The visitors further complicated their task by putting the Magic on the foul line 24 times, and they took advantage, nailing 20 of their freebies. All told, the Magic got 109 of their 119 points from the painted area, beyond the arc, and the stripe, which explains how they scored at an All-Star Game rate.
Detroit's defensive meltdown is particularly puzzling when examined in context with its prior two games against the Magic, both victories. Only the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks had limited the Magic to fewer points on average than the sad-sack Pistons had entering Monday's game, according to Brian Serra of MagicBasketballOnline.
|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.
The Magic picked up their second consecutive win, and did so impressively, as the numbers above indicate. Most encouragingly, Orlando played cohesively despite being without Howard, Hedo Turkoglu (facial fractures), and Chris Duhon (suspension). Ish Smith's performance in place of Duhon really opened some eyes as he made a strong case that he deserves more minutes. The Wake Forest product finished with six points and seven assists to just one turnover in 19 minutes in relief of Jameer Nelson. Further, the Magic shot 18-of-33 from the field and committed only two turnovers with Smith on the floor, according to NBA.com/Stats, a proprietary database the league only makes available to media members.
As Steve Kyler of HOOPSWORLD points out, coach Stan Van Gundy's demeanor with Smith in the game suggested he doesn't fully trust the 23-year-old, and it's unclear what Smith's role will be upon Duhon's return from suspension Tuesday evening against the Washington Wizards. But it's hard to overlook how brilliantly he played individually, and how well Orlando's offense ran with him at the helm.
Smith was hardly Orlando's only star. Davis and Richardson did more than their share, while Jameer Nelson posted a quiet 18-point, nine-assist outing. As Van Gundy said, everyone who took the floor for Orlando played well, and put forth a strong effort. That's what the Magic need, both now and in the postseason. If Orlando can play this well at full strength, maybe it can indeed pull a playoff upset.