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Orlando Magic 102, Detroit Pistons 89: Strong second half from Speights helps Magic end skid

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The Magic ran away from the Pistons in the fourth quarter behind the strong play of Elfrid Payton and Marreese Speights.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

When asked before the game about the challenges that come with coaching a team that has dropped nine in a row, Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel said it’s about "focusing on controllables. Understanding that it's not about the guys that are out as much as doing the things that we know we can do. We can control boxing out. We can control the way we pass, sprinting in both directions, and getting on the floor for loose balls."

The Magic did just that Thursday night as they defeated the Detroit Pistons 102-89 to end their second nine game losing skid of the season. Elfrid Payton led the Magic with 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists in the contest. Evan Fournier chipped in 17 points in 33 minutes of action.

But the night belonged to Orlando’s second unit, who outscored Detroit’s bench 33-12. Marreese Speights in particular provided a huge lift for the Magic, scoring 16 points in 15 minutes of action.

“In this league, you have to find something you’re really good at, and I think that’s something I’m good at,” Speights said when commenting on his ability to come into a game and add instant offense.

“Mo has been a great addition to our team,” Vogel said after the game. “He gave us a big lift tonight. Not just with his shooting, but he’s savvy. He’s a good basketball player. He’s got great instincts, a great feel for the game, and with consistent minutes right now - he’s going to give us this kind of lift.”

The Magic came out with a lot of energy to begin the game. Orlando made it’s first four shots, prompting coach Stan Van Gundy to call an early timeout less than two minutes into the contest. The Magic seemed to be the more aggressive team to begin the game. They forced the Pistons into committing six fouls as well as six first quarter turnovers.

A hallmark of Van Gundy coached teams is their ability to hit shots from deep. The Pistons connected on five three-point attempts in the first quarter, led by Reggie Bullock and his six first quarter points. Bullock had 20 points against the Magic on December 17th in Detroit (including four three-point makes).

Orlando led the Pistons 33-28 after the first quarter behind Elfrid Payton’s six first quarter points, four assists, and four rebounds.

Things turned for the Magic in the second quarter. They mostly just got really sloppy. Orlando turned the ball over eight times in the quarter. During one ugly sequence in particular, Mario Hezonja turned the ball over on a 4-on-1 fast-break (trying to pass the ball between his own legs), Aaron Gordon and Bismack Biyombo failed to communicate with one another on a defensive rebound (and knocked the ball out of bounds), and then Gordon was called for a charge on a fast-break attempt.

The Pistons went on a 14-0 run in the second quarter fueled by Ish Smith, who scored eight straight points in the period, and took a brief lead.

Both teams headed into the half tied at 50 points apiece. Andre Drummond had 11 points and 8 rebounds in the 1st half for the Pistons. The Magic were led by Gordon, Biyombo, and Evan Fournier, who all had 8 points each.

The Magic started out the third quarter hot, much like the way they started out at the beginning of the game. But again, a sizable 12-0 Pistons run in the third quarter cut into Orlando’s brief lead.

The lead actually changed five times in the third quarter, but then #MoBuckets happened. It had been a bit, but center Marreese Speights finally found his shot late in the third quarter, and scored seven straight points for the Magic (nine total in the period). Behind Speights, the Magic took a 77-73 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Magic hit three consecutive three-point attempts (Speights, Augustin, and Afflalo) to open up the fourth quarter, and that cushion was enough for the Magic to bring home the victory on their home floor.

Orlando outscored Detroit 52-39 in the second half.

Detroit was playing without it’s starting back-court tonight in Reggie Jackson (ankle) and Avery Bradley (groin). Bradley has missed the Pistons last five games working his way back into game action. Jackson, who sprained his ankle last Tuesday night, is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks.

Coach Stan Van Gundy post-game, on what tonight’s game revealed about the Pistons playing without Jackson and Bradley, said, “it didn’t have anything to do with being without guys to be quite honest. We weren’t ready to play at the beginning. Our starting lineup was not prepared to play, (they) didn’t bring anything to the game.”

On Detroit’s bench struggles, Van Gundy said, “obviously we got nothing off our bench. 3 for 22 off the bench, that’s not going to get it done. We can’t have that many guys have that bad a night and think we’re going to get wins.”

Former Magic forward Tobias Harris led the Pistons with a game high 21 points.

Aaron Gordon returned to Orlando’s lineup after a five game absence due to a left calf strain. Gordon posted 14 points and 7 rebounds in 30 minutes.

“Aaron looked good,” Vogel said. “He played within himself. He’s a difference-maker out there. With his athleticism, with the way he defends, his rebounding, his shot-making. He’s a difference-maker all over the court.”

Still, it was all about Marreese Speights tonight. His play changed the whole feel of the game in the second half. If you needed any proof, one could just look to Vogel’s post-game press conference. Affectionately laying on the table in the press room next to Vogel was a Speights-inspired hat from his apparel collection.

When asked whether Vogel is likely to purchase one or more hats if Speights keeps playing like he did tonight, Vogel promptly replied, “Mo Buckets.”

“It was great,” Speights said. “When you lose nine in a row and you come to the arena that is packed. It shows that the fans are still sticking with us. When you see stuff like that, you want to play hard for them.”