The Magic still are yet to win a game outside of Orlando this season.
Playing the third game of a four-game road trip, and once again without their two leading scorers, the Magic fell to the Pistons, 103-88. Orlando dropped its third straight to fall to 6-10, including 0-7 on the road.
It’s going to be a challenging stretch for the Magic, one that, much like the 33-point second half of this game, will be ugly to watch on many nights. The one benefit, at the very least, is getting to keep a close eye on what the members of the Magic’s young core do with the increased opportunity that has been presented to them through injury.
On Saturday it was Jonathan Isaac who stepped up with a career-high 25 points. This time around, it was Mo Bamba who delivered an encouraging first-half performance.
After checking in midway through the first quarter when Khem Birch collected his second foul, Bamba powered Orlando to a 15-3 run that built a nine-point lead. Bamba’s play in the first was a sight for Magic fan’s sore eyes as he was active and aggressive, tallying four points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals in the quarter.
Markelle Fultz led the way on the offensive end, attacking the basket and finishing with eight points in the first for the Magic, who shot 55 percent in the quarter and led 31-23 after the first.
A three by D.J. Augustin to open the second increase the Magic lead to 12. But the Pistons responded with a 14-2 run, capped by a three to regain the lead at 37-36. The Magic (despite Augustin’s overdribbling) went up by seven when Terrence Ross scored eight points in a roughly three-minute span, but the Pistons cut the lead to 55-53 at the half.
The dunk below midway through the third by Fultz was about the last highlight of the night for the Magic....
That throwdown, which gave the Magic a 68-67 lead, was the last Orlando field goal of the third. The Magic, held to 15 points in the third, failed to move the ball and missed their final 11 shot attempts of the quarter, with their only points during the final six minutes of the quarter coming on a pair of free throws by Evan Fournier. The 11-2 run by the Pistons gave them a 78-69 advantage heading into the fourth.
“When the ball moves and it moves freely, we can play good offense,” Steve Clifford told reporters after the game. “We reverted back tonight in the second half to, really to be honest, what’s been our biggest problem since I got here. Just pass the ball to the guy beside you...When we do that we’re a good team, when we don’t, like I said, we don’t have a breakdown guy, so it’s going to be hard.”
The Orlando offense wasn’t much better in the fourth as the Pistons maintained a double-digit lead. Luke Kennard led all scorers with 20 points to lead the Pistons, who entered having lost six of seven games.
The Magic shot 38.1 percent, making just 8 of 25 three-point attempts (32 percent). Ross led the way with 19 and Fournier addd 17, but shot just 5-for-16 from the field, missing all five of his three-point attempts. Fultz, who played a season-high 30 minutes, had 16 points on 7 of 12 shooting, and added four rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Bamba, through three quarters, matched a career-high with 12 rebounds. Bamba, who played over 20 minutes for the second straight game, finished with six points on 3 of 8 shooting. Isaac, in the follow-up to his career night, struggled with his shot (4-for-11) and had just 10 points but did block four shots. The Magic’s two replacement starters were quiet, with Birch (six points, six rebounds) and Wes Iwundu (three points, 1-for-6 shooting) combining for nine points.
The Magic will look to salvage the final game of the road trip when they head to Cleveland on Wednesday. Hopefully they’ll at last have Aaron Gordon back.