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Detroit Pistons 103, Orlando Magic 96

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In a dispiriting defeat, the Orlando Magic proved unable to defend the lowly Detroit Pistons, or to take care of the ball, losing a 103-96 decision at Amway Center, giving Detroit its first road win against a playoff-bound team. The Pistons' perimeter trio of Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, and Austin Daye scored 20 points apiece to pace the victors, negating Ryan Anderson's game-high, 21-point effort off Orlando's bench. Dwight Howard, the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, had 20 points, 16 boards, and 3 blocked shots, but it simply wasn't enough to give Orlando its fourth consecutive win.

The Pistons, one of the league's worst offensive outlets, set the tone with a 27-point first quarter, with McGrady contributing 14 on a variety of pull-up jumpers and drives to the rim. He and Prince, who function as Detroit's point guards in John Kuester's version of the Princeton offense, got wherever they wanted to on the floor against a soft, ineffective Orlando defense for much of the night. Daye did his damage spotting up from the outside, benefitting from Prince and McGrady drives en route to nailing all four of his three-point tries. After the loss, an upset Howard called out his perimeter teammates for not defending well enough, as he should have. Coach Stan Van Gundy also pointed the finger at Orlando's defense.

To his credit, Orlando's Jason Richardson accepted partial responsibility for the defeat, but it ought not rest squarely with him. Defense is a team concept that requires all players, one through twelve, to know their roles and responsibilities. Orlando didn't give a winning effort on that end tonight, and as a result, the better team came out on top.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Pistons 89 116.0 50.0% 27.2 22.7 7.9
Magic 86 108.7 50.0% 31.5 29.3 18.1
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

As well as Detroit played, Orlando would have stood a much greater chance of eking out a victory had it simply taken care of the ball. The Magic committed 16 turnovers in a low-possession contest; as the table above shows, 18 percent of the Magic's possessions, nearly one in five, ended with some sort of miscue. Had the Magic defended adequately, they may have survived. But they didn't, which reduced their margin for error.

The 26 points Detroit scored off turnovers may lead you to believe it was running and gunning, but many of those turnovers were of the dead-ball variety, affording the Pistons the chance to set up their halfcourt set, which they then tended to execute to perfection. Detroit shot 45.7 percent from the field overall, 50 percent on three-pointers, and committed just 7 turnovers. The Pistons may look back on this game as the high mark of their 2010/11 season. Good for them for having earned it, but obviously, Orlando is far better than what it showed tonight.

One second-quarter stretch aptly sums up the proceedings. A pair of Howard foul shots gave the Magic a 43-42 lead with 3:41 to play, but on Detroit's next possession, Howard senselessly tipped a Ben Gordon jumper off the rim, earning a goaltend and re-gifting the Pistons the lead. Jameer Nelson turned it over on Orlando's subsequent possession by charging into Daye, which the Pistons countered with a Prince jumper at an impossible angle. Anderson committed a rare inbound violation, resulting in back-to-back possessions for Detroit; Daye cashed in with another three-ball. Then, Brandon Bass lost his handle, setting up a Pistons possession for a Prince jumper. Turkoglu threw a silly pass on Orlando's next trip, which Prince picked off and threw ahead to a streaking Gordon.

Yup. In just over two minutes, the Pistons reeled off 11 straight points without Orlando so much as getting a shot up, the sort of sequence one might see on YouTube accompanied by the Yakety Sax. Awful, all-around.

The disparity in perimeter production really tells the story in this loss. Hedo Turkoglu and Richardson, Orlando's starting wings, combined to shoot 5-of-19 from the floor for 10 points, in contrast to the McGrady/Prince pairing, which managed 40 points on 17-of-33 shooting. With that huge advantage, Howard's interior edge didn't matter. He got great, deep position on nearly every trip, but wasn't always delivered the ball, which must have compounded his frustration.

At this point, one has to wonder if this performance is an outlier for Orlando, or if we can expect low-effort, low-intensity outings on a nightly basis from this team. Richardson and Turkoglu were at their worst tonight and Orlando, despite Van Gundy's urging to the contrary, played right into Detroit's hands.

The Magic can put this loss behind them with a victory Wednesday night in Indianapolis against the Pacers, but a repeat of tonight will result in a career-best night for the likes of Brandon Rush and Paul George.

Championship teams don't let themselves get punked like this. Not in January, and not against teams of Detroit's caliber. Again, credit to the Pistons for coming out, executing their gameplan, and really handing it to Orlando. This is a win they can reflect on with pride.