The Orlando Magic rode Dwight Howard's offense and some timely three-point shooting from his teammates to blow out the undersized Detroit Pistons, 116-91, in their first game after the All-Star break. Howard exploited Ben Wallace's lack of speed and Jason Maxiell's poor footwork all game long, scoring 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting, while Vince Carter continued his strong play this month with 20 points on 8-of-12 from the floor. Howard's interior defense prevented the Pistons from getting any clean looks inside, so their offense struggled unless Richard Hamilton had the ball. Hamilton set a season-high in scoring with 36 points on a variety of moves, but the rest of the Pistons combined for 55 points on 62 shots, so Orlando can live with his big night. The close game--Orlando led by just 1 point at the break--turned into a blowout in the fourth quarter as the Magic fed Howard on the left block on seemingly every possession. Detroit did itself no favors by countering with a small lineup, with three guards flanking Tayshaun Prince and either Maxiell or Wallace in the middle.
|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.
Howard's work at the defensive end helped set the tone in the second half. He blocked 7 shots overall and kick-started several Magic fast-breaks. He also helped the Magic keep the Pistons off the glass, with the Magic claiming a 40-39 rebounding differential on the night despite spotting the Pistons several boards in the first half. He did it all, really, and his performance on both sides of the ball--against a team that's contained him fairly well--overshadows the excellent work Carter and Jameer Nelson, his backcourt-mate, did all night. Nelson shot 6-of-10 for 14 points while dishing 9 assists, continuing his recent stretch of solid play in pick-and-roll and drive-and-kick situations.
Thus, it's hard to see a real blemish in the Magic's effort tonight. Hamilton went off, sure, but they shut the rest of the team down. At halftime, Nelson told sideline reporter Whit Watson that the Magic tend to "give up" when they have a big lead. It was true at the time, as the Pistons trimmed a 12-point Orlando lead to just 1 at intermission. But the Magic built that lead in the third quarter with their defense--the offense had been there all night--and put away an inferior team.