In a contest billed as a showdown between promising rookies on struggling squads, the Magic were ultimately able to claim bragging rights for Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, building an early lead over Cade Cunningham and Pistons that they simply never relinquished.
Despite some clunkiness in the half court, the Magic were able to open up an early advantage by using their defense to fuel transition chances. Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony both had steals that generated fast breaks, while Mo Bamba was active blocking shots and cleaning the glass. Things then clicked for Franz Wagner, who went on a personal tear as he racked up 13 quick points on a series of moves – drives, jumpers, and intelligent cuts. His last bucket for the quarter gave Orlando a 21-11 lead, a margin that hot shooting by Terrence Ross, Gary Harris and Chuma Okeke further added to. When the period came to a close it was the Magic by a whopping 20 points, up 39-19 courtesy of 68.2% shooting from the field (15-22) and a stingy defense that forced 4 turnovers and limited the Pistons to just six made field goals.
Sloppy execution marred the opening minutes of the second, the Magic coughing the ball up on three possessions inside the first three minutes, allowing the Pistons to piece together a 9-5 run that cut the margin to 16. It was a facet of the game that continued to haunt them as the period continued, turnovers compounding a more fallow offensive stretch as their scoring slowed. When Detroit started to successfully get into the paint and create contact it added another layer of complication, gifting them easy points but also opening up an inside-out game that had struggled early. They eventually cut the margin to 7 on the back of this momentum, doubling the Magic up in the period and threatening to entirely erase the work of the first.
With the starters returned to the court Orlando were able to settle things down as the game wound towards half-time. Franz finished another loping excursion through the paint to push the lead back into double-digits, before Wendell Carter Jr. stuffed home a massive two-handed dunk before completing the three-point play. The team was also much better defensively, with WCJ and Bamba offering stout resistance at the hoop and largely taking away any second-chance opportunities for the Pistons. It allowed the Magic to close the half on an 11-4 run, a burst fittingly capped by a pair of free-throws to Wagner as he pushed his personal tally to 17. After weathering the early second-quarter storm Orlando went to the half leading 67-51.
Detroit started faster in the third, opening on a 10-5 spurt courtesy of some opportunistic outside shooting. Some ugly back-and-forth sequences followed, but the Magic were able to find a little footing by locating Bamba in the painted area. The big man flushed home two emphatic dunks, drawing a foul on the second after a pretty passing sequence and turning it into a three-point play that reset the team’s lead back to 11.
Bamba and Okeke combined to continue the Magic’s rejuvenated play in the period, the second year forward drilling a corner three and the fourth-year center then dribbling into a mid-range jumper that capped a 12-3 Orlando run. They also both added finishes in the paint in the quarter’s closing minutes, Bamba finishing with an individual tally of 12 points in the third and Okeke chipping in 7 of his own. It ultimately allowed the Magic to claim a slight win in the period, extending their advantage to 17 as they entered the final quarter up 92-75.
Ross’ second triple of the night extended the lead to 20 on Orlando’s first possession of the fourth, before his third made it 23 on the very next sequence. His fourth? It came just 48 seconds later and confirmed that the Human Torch was well and truly lit. A few minutes later he added a three-point play for good measure, keeping the margin at 24 despite the Magic having already put Detroit in the bonus. His individual burst effectively iced the game, the two teams playing out a relatively listless final five minutes during which the Pistons never came closer than 16. It ultimately settled at 119-103, the Magic claiming their first win of the season over Detroit and moving to 2-2 on the current home-stand.
Orlando’s three stars
Hockey is a pretty great sport, so I thought I would steal one of its best little touches for my own game analysis: the three stars. Here is who caught my eye tonight.
First star: Mo Bamba — a hyper efficient 18 points on 8-9 shooting, which he complemented with 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and some smart positional play throughout the night. It was a professional performance from the big man.
Second star: Chuma Okeke — was quietly excellent for the Magic tonight, putting up 17 points on 6-7 shooting (including 3-4 from deep), while also collecting 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks. Importantly he was a two-way contributor who routinely made life difficult for his direct opponent.
Third star: the scoring punch of Franz Wagner and Terrence Ross — the pair provided two stretches of breathtaking scoring punch, with Wagner piling up 13 first-quarter points that initially blew things open before the Human Torch knocked in a dozen at the end that slammed the door shut.
The Magic pick up their tenth win of the season, ever so slightly reducing the gap between them and Detroit in the lottery odds race. They’ll next be in action against the Mavericks on Sunday night.