Despite the loss, there were signs of something interesting brewing from Wednesday’s game versus the Hornets, when the Magic passed the ball around with fervor rarely seen this season. Even when the shots weren’t falling, it seemed like they were doing the right stuff. Tonight, they turned up the passing attack to 11, at one point assisting on 28 of their 33 made baskets, in a raucous blowout over the Detroit Pistons, 115-87. Elfrid Payton notched his fourth triple-double of the month with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in just three quarters, as all five starters scored at least 14 points.
(Also, Detroit is not in a good place right now. Not. At. All.)
The first quarter started deceptively slow for both teams, with the Magic shooting only 40%, and Detroit an even more miserable 29%, leading to a 22-18 Orlando lead. It all broke open in the second, however, when the Magic’s passing attack really came into its own. Orlando dropped several massive lobs throughout the night through Aaron Gordon (probably his best dunking night of the year), indicative of how flimsy Detroit’s interior defense was.
Even beyond the lobs, though, it was clear that the Magic were committed to their ball movement, executing several give-and-gos in transition and around the paint, making touch passes to corner and wing shooters, and drawing the defense in with constant drive-and-kick action. Payton, of course, was front and center in that passing activity, but the style was infectious. Mario Hezonja, playing his second game as backup power forward with Green out (though he subbed for Terrence Ross at shooting guard when he got into foul trouble), tallied 4 assists in the first half, and 5 on the game, actually connecting on the ambitious lobs he likes to attempt.
By halftime the game looked well close to over, Orlando holding a 57-39 lead, but they put an exclamation point on it in the third, scoring yet another 35 points. That was when Ross finally got going, scoring 9 of his game-high 18. He was 5-6 from long range on the night, and the Magic were 12/26 overall. By comparison, Detroit looked totally lost, making just 2/22 from long range. Still, even if their offense was closer to NBA average, it wouldn’t have mattered against the Magic’s hot shooting and hotter passing. With a 30-point lead heading into the fourth, it was all about garbage time (And Boban. Lots of Boban.)