On the day the first round of the NCAA Tournament began, the Magic and Pistons squared off in the only NBA game of the night.
It was a fitting matchup for the occasion considering it’s two of the three worst teams in the league trying desperately to stay in that bottom three in order to better their chances of landing one of the top prospects competing in March Madness like Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith.
In a game that both teams would be better served losing, with Tankathon giving the game a Tank Rank of 96.9 out of a possible 100 based on its impact on the draft, it was the Pistons who creeped closer to the dreaded fourth-worst spot with a 134-120 win. Of course, the difference in odds is only a matter of percentage points, with the league’s three worst teams each having a 14 percent change of landing the top pick and a 52.1 percent chance of falling within the top four, and the fourth-worst team having a 12.5 percent chance at No 1 overall and 48.1 percent chance of a top-four pick.
The Pistons’ Saddiq Bey had no interest in improving the Pistons’ lottery odds, finishing with a career-high 51 points while making 10 threes in the game.
After the Magic jumped out to a 9-0 lead, with Mo Bamba scoring seven points in that stretch, Bey hit the first of his four threes in the quarter as he dropped 21 points in the first.
Still, the Magic had a 39-37 advantage after one by shooting 61.5 percent from the field, led by Franz Wagner’s 11 points.
The Magic cooled off in the second, shooting 25.9 percent, but Bey did not. He drained both of his three-point attempts in the quarter to give him 30 points in the half, capped by a wild sequence in the closing seconds. After draining a fadeaway jumper from the corner to give the Pistons a 70-62 lead with 8.8 seconds left, Bey intercepted a lazy inbounds pass by Bamba, and hit a three, giving him five points in a 4.9 second span. That sent the Pistons into the locker room with a 73-62 lead, Detroit’s season-high for points at the half.
Bey shot 10-for-15 from the field in the half, going 6 of 9 from deep. The Pistons overall went 12-for-24 from three in the half.
The Wagner brothers combined to score 16 straight Orlando points in the third, with Franz’s running hook shot pulling the Magic within 92-86 with 3:39 left in the quarter.
Franz had 13 points in the quarter and Moe had 11 as the two combined for 24 of the Magic’s 32 points in the third.
But Bey put the Pistons back up by double figures when he drained another three in the final minute of the third to give him a new career-high at 36 points and counting. The Pistons closed the third on a 7-0 run to take a 106-94 lead into the fourth.
The lead grew to as many as 17 in the fourth as Bey inched closer to the 50-point milestone. Bey knocked down his tenth three of the game to give him 49 points with 1:08 remaining. With what seemed like one final chance for a 50 piece, Bey’s jumper was blocked by Franz Wagner with 24 seconds left. Cole Anthony then knocked down a three with 16.6 seconds, giving the Pistons the ball back to either run out the clock or give Bey one final shot at 50.
When the Pistons swung the ball to Bey, the Magic triple teamed him at the three-point line. R.J. Hampton seemed to take exception to the Pistons’ refusal to run out the clock as he swiped at the ball. By doing so, he fouled Bey, who then went to the line with 8.2 seconds left and hit both free throws to finish with 51 points.
Saddiq Bey finishes with 51 PTS!— NBA (@NBA) March 18, 2022
10 3PM | 51 POINTS (17-27 FGM)
Bey was the second straight Magic opponent to exceed 50 points in a game, following Kyrie Irving’s 60-point performance on Tuesday. Bey became the 13th player to score 50 or more points in a game this season, tying the NBA record (H/T David Steele). Bey shot 17-for-27 from the field and 10-for-14 from three. He added 10 rebounds and four assists during his career night.
The Magic entered the week having posted the league’s best defensive rating since the All-Star break, but allowed the Pistons to score a season-high 134 points on a night they played without their leading scorer Cade Cunningham (after allowing 150 to the Nets on Tuesday). The Pistons shot 50 percent overall and made 20 of 43 three-point attempts (46.5 percent), and they still had 25 second-chance points.
Franz Wagner also had an efficient night, scoring 26 points on 10-for-15 shooting. The Magic (playing without Jalen Suggs, Wendell Carter Jr. and Chuma Okeke) had six players in double figures, with Terrence Ross scoring 17 and Moe Wagner adding 16.
Markelle Fultz had 11 points, five rebounds, five assists, six turnovers and this dunk…
Bamba, after scoring eight points in the first, finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Anthony, who missed his first 10 shots, had 12 points and seven assists but finished just 4 of 15 from the field.
It was the third straight loss for the Magic, who fell to 18-53. The Pistons snapped a four-game losing streak with the win, improving to 19-51.
Saddiq Bey went for 51?!— Tankathon.com (@tankathon) March 18, 2022
Detroit now 1.5 games back from Houston and Orlando. https://t.co/mrgjb1LTD4
Ridiculous game from Chet Holmgren; 19 points, 17 rebounds, 7 blocks, 5 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers. Completely dominated on both ends of the floor. Highlights, and overall talent, are absolutely insane. Highly anticipated matchup coming Saturday with Jalen Duren and Memphis. pic.twitter.com/HIKMOnIgSY— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 18, 2022
The Magic continue their six-game homestand with another Tankathon matchup on Sunday when they host the league’s current fourth-worst team, the 20-49 Oklahoma City Thunder.