Five Orlando Magic players scored in double-figures Friday as they routed the Detroit Pistons, 109-92, in a game they led for the final 44 minutes and 52 seconds. Arron Afflalo notched 23 points for Orlando while three other Orlando players recorded double-doubles.
"We definitely needed a night like tonight, just to win, to get that win, to get that feeling, and then progress forward to the next game," Tobias Harris, who tallied 16 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season, said. "We did a really good job tonight of following our scouting report on the Pistons and we executed really well tonight as a team."
Here's a look at the stories that developed Friday.
Defense feeds offense
In Monday's loss to the New York Knicks, the Magic allowed a season-high 65 points in the first half before knuckling down defensively in the second. That trend carried over against Detroit, as Orlando yielded just 41.1 percent shooting from the floor.
"It was pretty impressive defensively," Afflalo said. "I thought our bigs did a great job trying to fight their bigs all night."
Both Afflalo and coach Jacque Vaughn indicated that Friday morning's shootaround was more intense than usual, and that focus could have played a role in that night's result. "I thought the guys did a much better job of just getting locked in to what we needed to do defensively," Afflalo said, "in terms of helping the bigs out on defense."
Jameer Nelson agreed.
"My focus was just to go out there and play defense," Nelson said of his approach coming out of halftime. "Brandon Jennings, he had 18 points in the first half, and he was basically... we talked about it before the game, he's the head of the snake for those guys. And it was up to me to buckle down and be more efficient defensively as well." Jennings scored just three points in the second half, though Nelson declined to take full credit for shutting down the southpaw point guard.
On Friday, the Magic managed to turn their defense into offense, getting 14 fast-break points and several other early scores in delayed transition. Their 52.9 percent shooting tied their second-best mark of the season.
"We have a young team that's athletic [and can] get out and run if we get steals and stops," Nelson said. "We have guys who are smart. Glen [Davis] and Nik [Vučević] know when to set the random pick-and-rolls for us and we have guys who are willing to pass the ball as well. Defense is all about energy and effort and that translates to easy buckets and easy plays for you."
"I think we're a hard team in transition," Harris said, concurring with the Magic's co-captain. "When we get stops and we get rebounds off their misses and push it, especially a big team like that, that helps us."
The Magic also benefitted from a change in priorities, according to Harris: "I think tonight we focused [on] defense first instead of offense." The opposite dynamic was at play in Monday's loss.
"If we lock down and play some defense, we'll be in every game that we play," Harris said, underscoring a big takeaway from the victory.
Afflalo's All-Star case
Afflalo's 23-point outing--on a tidy 9-of-11 shooting--marked his fifth consecutive game crossing the 20-point threshold, continuing his season-long string of efficient, high-volume scoring. At 22 points per game through Friday, he ranks 11th in the league in scoring and stands as one of 12 players to average 20-plus points, four-plus rebounds, and three-plus assists. He certainly merits consideration for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game.
"He's not even out there stat-chasing," Nelson said. "He's out there playing basketball the right way and he's playing very efficient."
Afflalo has similarly impressed his coach.
"I don't think you can pick too many spots throughout the course of the game where he's rushing and pressing to make shots and take shots," Vaughn said. "I think he's getting them within the flow of the offense and being very efficient, whether they're in transition or whether they're in a set offense."
Vaughn wouldn't campaign for his starting two-guard through the media, but did say he would support Afflalo's All-Star candidacy.
"Will I talk to other coaches and say how great he's been for us and how impressive he's been for us? Yes," Vaughn said. "But I won't be making any banners, no."
Vaughn's fellow head coaches vote for the NBA All-Star reserves. The 2014 NBA All-Star Game is set for Sunday, February 16th, at New Orleans Arena.
The only Orlando player in uniform who didn't take the floor in Friday's blowout was Andrew Nicholson, who earned his first Did Not Play-Coach's Decision of the season.
"No need for me to put Drew in the last couple minutes [of the game]," Vaughn said. "I wanted to get Solo [Jones] some time to get some work in." Prior to Friday's game, Jones had not played in Orlando's last nine contests, a three-week span.
Vaughn also said that the Magic played smaller for some stretches against Detroit, with Harris shifting from small forward to power forward, in order to space the floor and create mismatches against the Pistons' big front line.
Nicholson's absence Friday means that Oladipo is the only Orlando player to appear in all of the team's games in the 2013/14 season. The second-year big man is averaging nine points and five rebounds per game on 55.4 percent True Shooting.
Catching up with Pat
As part of their ongoing 25th anniversary celebration, the Magic honored Pat Garrity in a ceremony between the first and second periods Friday. Garrity played nine seasons with Orlando and ranks fourth on the franchise's all-time games played list. While with the Magic, he drained 624 triples at 39.8 percent, ranking seventh and sixth in those categories, respectively.
Since retiring in 2008, Garrity earned his Master's in Business Administration from Duke and now manages "client relationships" for a Connecticut-based investment firm. "Our investors are kind of institutional investors, pension funds, endowments, foundations... it's not as exciting as standing in the corner for open threes," Garrity said. He now gets his basketball fix by coaching his eight-year-old son's team.
Garrity deprecated himself when asked about his reaction to learning the Magic wanted to honor him as part of their anniversary celebration. "My first reaction was, 'are you sure you have the right number?'" said the Notre Dame grad. Later, he offered a less humorous assessment of the situation:
"To be called back as one of the guys celebrating an anniversary, it just... I couldn't have imagined when I was traded here that I would be a guy like that at the end of my career that they'd choose that for."
Garrity joins Tracy McGrady; Nick Anderson; Pat Williams and Jim Hewitt; and Dennis Scott among key figures in team history Orlando has honored with a Legends Night.