The Magic in recent games had managed to overcome slow starts, make halftime adjustments, extend their winning streak, and gain ground in the playoff race.
Not on this night.
The Magic started slow, never recovered, and squandered an opportunity to move up in the playoff standings as the Pistons routed Orlando, 115-98. The loss snapped the Magic’s six-game winning streak and cost them a chance to grab hold of a share of the sixth seed. The Pistons, who entered the night as the seventh seed, moved ahead of the Nets, who lost to Philadelphia, 123-110. With the Heat’s 105-99 win over the Mavericks, Orlando now sits a half-game behind Miami for the eighth seed, a game behind the seventh-seeded Nets, and 1.5 games behind the Pistons.
Brace yourselves, Magic fans. This is what life is going to be like over the next two weeks as five teams battle for three spots.
Orlando missed nine of their first 12 shots to open the game as Detroit jumped out to a 16-7 lead midway through the first. The Magic did fight back to briefly take the lead after D.J. Augustin scored eight straight Orlando points, capped by a four-point play for a 27-25 advantage.
GOT 'EM— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 28, 2019
GOT 'EM AGAIN
The D.J. Augustin Story pic.twitter.com/FdvtR04K8r
But that would be the Magic’s first and last lead of the game.
The Pistons shot nearly 60 percent in the opening quarter while the Magic shot just 38 percent. Andre Drummond had six points, five rebounds and four of the Pistons five first-quarter blocks as Orlando unwisely continued to challenge the Detroit big man.
The shooting trends continued in the second as Detroit have their way with the Magic inside and out on the offensive end. The Pistons, who entered the night 21st in the league in three-point shooting percentage at 35 percent, connected on 9 of 16 attempts from downtown in the first half. A Blake Griffin three with seconds remaining sent the Pistons into the break with a 60-46 advantage. Overall the Pistons shot 58 percent from the field in the half compared to 34 percent for the Magic.
In their previous two games, the Magic dominated the third quarters over Philadelphia and Miami, respectively. In this game, the third was dominated by the Pistons, namely Wayne Ellington. Ellington scored the Pistons first 12 points of the quarter, all on threes, and finished with 17 of his season-high 25 points in the quarter as the Pistons’ lead grew to as many as 26.
The Magic were outscored 34-25 in the third and entered the fourth down 94-71. Orlando cut the lead to 16 in the fourth after a three by Jonathan Isaac with 8:52 remaining. But the Magic would get no closer.
Ellington finished 7-for-11 from three, nearly single-handedly outshooting the Magic, who made just 8 of 31 attempts from three (25.8) percent. The Pistons shot 17-for-35 from three (48.6 percent) and 53.5 percent overall. Griffin finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Drummond had 18 points, 18 rebounds and six of the Pistons’ nine blocked shots.
Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 20 points, Augustin added 18 and Evan Fournier had 13. Vucevic struggled with Drummond’s physicality, shooting just 5-for-15 from the field. He quietly finished with a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The Magic entered the night with a chance to move into a tie for the sixth spot, and finished the night in the ninth spot. Disappointing, but Orlando remains in good position with six games remaining.
The Magic continue their four-game road trip on Saturday in Indiana.