Down starting point guard Elfrid Payton, the Magic would need a combination of hard work and smart execution to compete with the Detroit Pistons on the road. They got neither, and the Pistons blitzed Orlando for the 115-89 win. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led Detroit with 21 points, and Andre Drummond added 17 points and 12 rebounds. Victor Oladipo, starting in place of Payton, contributed 18 points to lead Orlando, but it wasn't enough to prop up their struggling offense. Even worse was the defensive effort, which appears to be a growing issue after the Magic showed so much promise on that end early in the season. Orlando allowed open shots all night, and the misses they did force didn't matter while Detroit was snagging a whopping 18 offensive rebounds.
To say Orlando came out flat would be a severe understatement. A combination of bad luck, poor execution, and poor effort put the Magic in a 21-6 hole. They missed a few makeable shots early, then exacerbated the issue by settling for tough jumpers instead of finding their offense. The defense was equally as poor, with Detroit getting buckets inside and out, primarily in the pick-and-roll. Orlando finally found life on offense when Shabazz Napier and Andrew Nicholson subbed in, relieving Oladipo temporarily from point guard duties and switing Nicholson for Frye to offer a little more energy. That allowed the Magic to close the gap, but the Pistons continued to burn the Magic for their lazy execution on defense. Drummond in particular was the beneficiary of multiple lobs and pocket passes in the paint, scoring and easy 10 points. Oladipo earnedd 7 points in the quarter, all of which came in the last 4:40 of the quarter after the substitution. Detroit led 31-23 after 12 minutes.
The Magic's short comeback at the end of the first was in large part thanks to making 7 consecutive FGs. That wasn't bound to keep up; unfortunately, the Pistons just kept rolling. Detroit pushed the ball relentlessly, and the Magic could not figure out how to handle the matchups in transition. The Pistons got into the paint at will and found several open shooters on kickouts. Add that to a couple fastbreak layups, and Orlando was down 16 again, having allowed 40 points not even 15 minutes into the game. The defense finally kicked back in for the last six minutes of the half, in which Orlando allowed only 9 points, and they trailed 57-47 at halftime.
The Magic flipped the script in the third quarter, scoring on their first three possessions to cut the 10-point lead down to 3 in a flash. Vucavic played a part in all three baskets, getting four points in the post and getting an offensive rebound and the kickout to Tobias Harris for a 3. The Magic might have pulled ahead if not for several offensive rebounds to keep Pistons possessions alive. Instead, after getting the lead all the way down to 2, Orlando stalled out again as the ball movement dwindled and the defense let up, and Detroit pushed the lead right back to 14. Reggie Jackson led the charge for Detroit with 10 in the quarter, and Brandon Jennings hit a tough buzzer beating 3 at the end of the third.
Detroit sealed the game for good early in the fourth, running out to a 26-point lead before Skiles waved the white flag and put in the bench. The effort is doubly disappointing after Skiles held an extra practice just to shore up the defense, and may show how much the team relies on Payton to remain cohesive on both sides of the ball. Orlando returns home to face the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.