In a battle between the two worst teams in the league, it was the Magic who lost.
The two draft lottery favorites squared off in a close one on Saturday, with the Pistons defeating the Magic, 97-92. It was the eighth straight loss for the Magic, who fell to 7-32. The Pistons improved to 8-30
Detroit hit some early threes while scoring the first eight points of the game, a run that came to an end with a Gary Harris three. Harris, though, was the only member of the Magic to hit anything from the outside early in the first, as Orlando made just three of its first 13 field goal attempts.
The Magic — playing without Wendell Carter Jr., who missed the game with a sore hamstring — allowed some easy drives and points in the paint, pushing the Pistons’ lead at one point to 28-19. A dunk by Terrence Ross off an in-bounds pass from Tim Frazier and a corner three by R.J. Hampton, also off an in-bounds, pulled the Magic within four.
The Magic, thanks in part for making all seven of their free throw attempts compared to one make for the Pistons, trailed just 31-26 after one despite shooting only 38 percent in the quarter. Harris had nine points in the quarter to lead Orlando. Saddiq Bey also had nine to lead the Pistons, which shot 52 percent in the first.
The Pistons’ lead reached double figures when Josh Jackson drained a three to make it 44-34 with just under seven minutes left in the second. Another Harris three soon cut that deficit in half, but the Magic would be held without another field goal over the next three minutes as Detroit pushed the lead back to nine. Franz Wagner’s three ended the drought, and the rookie added a layup at the end of the quarter to send the Magic into the half trailing 52-45.
Orlando shot 32.6 percent in the half, with Harris leading the way with 12 points on 3-for-6 shooting from deep. His teammates combined to go just 4 of 18 from three in the half.
After Orlando opened the third with some sloppy turnovers, Harris and Cole Anthony hit back-to-back threes to pull the Magic within five. Following a pair of free throws by Cade Cunningham, Anthony hit a deep three to spark an 8-0 Magic run.
That was capped when Anthony delivered a cross-court pass to Chuma Okeke, who drained a corner three with 2:18 left in the third to give the Magic their first lead of the game at 68-67.
With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Harris drained a contested corner three off the inbounds to put the Magic up three. Jackson answered with a three of his own, sending the two teams into the fourth tied at 73-73.
The Pistons opened the fourth on a 6-0 run and the Magic were limited to free throws over the first four minutes of the quarter as the Detroit lead grew to eight. The Magic then went on a 7-0 run, capped after Mo Bamba’s chasedown block led to Harris’ layup in transition to pull the Magic within 86-85. Cory Joseph followed with a corner three that increased the Detroit lead to four. Ross then answered with his first three of the game in four attempts to make it 89-88 with 3:17 remaining.
With the Magic down one, Harris had an opportunity to put the Magic in front but missed an open corner three with 2:10 left. Hamidou Diallo pushed the lead to three with a tip-in but failed to make it a two-possession game when he missed a one-handed alley-oop. The Magic had one more opportunity to tie it up coming out of a timeout down 95-92 with eight seconds left, but Anthony missed a contested, off-balance three.
Harris finished with a season-high 28 points, going 6 of 12 from three. Anthony shot just 5-for-18 from the field, including 3-for-12 from three, but finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Franz Wagner’s streak of scoring in double figures ended at 21 games after he finished with nine points on 4-for-10 shooting. Orlando overall shot 33.7 percent, going 14-for-46 from three.
The Magic squandered what was their best chance to snap their losing streak. They return home to complete a back-to-back when they host the Washington Wizards on Sunday night.