The Detroit Pistons ended the Orlando Magic's 7-game winning streak on Monday night, beating the Magic by a score of 88-82. Detroit placed five players in double figures, led by Rodney Stuckey, who had 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Rashard Lewis' 23 points, highlighted by 6 three-pointers in 12 attempts, weren't enough to put Orlando over the hump against what most of its players would privately characterize as its nemesis.
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Of all the losses this season--granted, there are only 7--this one stings the most. Apparently, the Magic learned nothing from their playoff defeat at the hands of this team last May. Just like in May, they couldn't force turnovers. Just like in May, they couldn't keep the Pistons off the offensive glass. Just like in May, they couldn't find Dwight Howard in the post. Just like in May, they got minimal production from their bench (although Mickael Pietrus looked good until he sprained his right wrist and had to leave for good). And just like in May, Antonio McDyess made game-saving plays off the bench. It's easy to see why I wanted the Magic to add him during his brief free-agency this year, no? Dyess led the Pistons with 8 boards (4 offensive, including one that lead directly to a Tayshaun Prince three-pointer) and 5 assists while scoring 11 points of his own. Maddening.
Also maddening? The Magic's abject refusal to get Dwight Howard involved. Howard had 1 point at the half after missing all 4 of his field goals. They started the second half by looking for him in the post on every possession, and he rewarded them with an assortment of (lucky) lefty hooks. Yet in the 4th quarter, with the Pistons in the lead (but their offense stagnating), the Magic were unable to get the ball to their franchise center. Sure, they looked for him a few times--McDyess had several weak-side deflections on the entry passes--but they seemed more content to...do what, exactly? I watched the game and I don't even know. Not that it matters. Whatever they did, it wasn't working. A thoroughly disappointing loss, because this one was easily winnable.
The Pistons got their share of lucky bounces. But they got those in the playoffs, too, and it's apparent that this team simply has a knack for making good plays at opportune times. Meanwhile, the Magic made some head-scratching decisions down the stretch, including...
- Hedo Turkoglu posting up the smaller Stuckey in transition (good) but settling for a fadeaway jumper instead (awful)
- Hedo Turkoglu throwing a pass to a wide-open Rashard Lewis in the right corner... about 4 feet behind Lewis. The Magic were down 6 with 3:10 to play.
- Jameer Nelson stepping out of bounds coming out of a timeout, with the Magic down 7 and 1:07 remaining.
- the aforementioned failure to get the ball to Dwight, on several occasions
Honestly, wouldn't you have preferred a blowout loss? I'm sick of watching this Magic team, and the Tracy McGrady-"led" ones before it--do the "close, but no cigar" routine against the Pistons.
I guess it's good to know the Magic battled back and were a few favorable bounces away from maybe stealing this one, but a loss is a loss. And a loss to the Pistons feels like ten losses.
The Magic next take the floor on New Year's Eve against Chicago. For my sanity's sake, I hope they make quick work of the Bulls. No more flat starts. No more mental errors. Just dominant basketball, like we saw in the first half against New Orleans on Christmas Day.