A year ago, Detroit was the only team in the Eastern Conference to sweep the season series against the would be NBA finalists, Orlando Magic. After an offseason full of changes, Detroit entered Tuesday night's game looking completely different from the 2008-2009 brand, coming off two bad losses, and fans expecting the worst as the Pistons were staring the scary 3-0 (11-0 if you count the preseason) Magic in the face. Oh, and throw in an injured Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince for good measure?
Detroit gritted their way to a five point victory in front of a sparse home crowd, but behind three gutsy guards, who each scored 20 or more points. Ben Gordon led all scorers with 23 points on 6-10 shooting. He was a perfect 11-11 at the free throw line. Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey each added a tough 20 points. Bynum scored 10 in the final quarter, despite missing three minutes in the middle due to an inadvertent poke in the eye that looked serious and forced him to the locker room. Stuckey also grabbed nine rebounds to boot.
On defense, Detroit created all sorts of problems for the Magic. Ben Wallace collected 10 rebounds, blocked two shots, and had two steals. He was huge down the stretch, playing with the type of energy we all saw from the 2004 Ben Wallace.
The Pistons relied heavily on driving to the basket, while the Magic lived and died by the long ball. As a result of attacking the hoop, Detroit drew plenty of fouls and went 31-38 from the charity stripe while the Magic attempted just 16 free throws (making 12). Instead of drawing contact, the Magic heaved up 35 three pointers, making 10 of them (29%). This compared to Detroit's zero three pointers in six attempts. In the end, Detroit taking higher percentage shots, albeit just AH percentage point higher, and getting to the line early and often helped them prevail.
Detroit's game plan to attack the basket and draw fouls probably had a lot to do with Dwight Howard in the middle posing as a huge threat to Detroit's chances tonight. By driving to the basket, the Pistons were able to get Howard and his backup, Marcin Gortat, in early foul trouble and ultimately, get them to foul out. Howard and Gortat combined for just 39 minutes of action, 12 points, and 12 rebounds. Brilliant game plan by Coach Q.
With Howard being in foul trouble all game, and Vince Carter still nursing a sore ankle preventing him from cutting to the basket (and playing in crunch time), Orlando was virtually forced out of its comfort zone all night. Detroit seems to know how to push all the right buttons when they play the Magic, as the win improves Detroit's overall record to 46-30 against Orlando, and an astounding 22-4 (including playoffs) in their last 26 meetings.
Some other notes/thoughts after the jump:
- Jonas Jerebko made his first NBA start in place of the injured Tayshaun Prince. He was good in small spurts, but I don't know if he's a starter. He was a zero on offense, although he did grab a couple offensive rebounds. His final line was 0-5, five rebounds, one block, plus-five (the worst of the starters), and zero points. He did break a record, though. He was the first Swedish born player to start an NBA game.
- Speaking of rookies getting (or lack thereof) their first points, Austin Daye played four minutes and scored his first career points on a nice breakaway slamma jamma.
- Kwame Brown had six points, but looked pretty good playing in the post. He could have had four or so more points if his hands weren't made of bricks.
- Charlie Villanueva's stat line continues to improve, but his shot is not for the most part. He was 3-11 from the field for 12 points. He pulled down eight rebounds and had a steal. I still think he's hindered from that hamstring, as I saw that it is wrapped up. I know that could be just for precautionary measures, but it has to be somewhat bothersome. Plus, apparently he has been sick.
- As I mentioned above, Will Bynum was poked in the eye when he drove the lane with just under seven minutes left in the game. I was pretty frustrated when this happened because Bynum clearly blocked out all his teammates and decided he was going to rush the Magic-filled lane and throw up any shot he possibly could. It was undisciplined and as if it didn't bug me enough, he got hurt and almost had to sit out the rest of the game. Luckily, he was a warrior and came back into the game. His jump shot was on and I love when he burns the net, but I don't like it when he gets into those uber "ball hog" modes where he dribbles for 20 seconds, gains no ground, and then has to hurry and force a shot in a crowded lane. Just saying.
- Ryan Anderson was 1-11 from three point land and Detroit took just six three pointers. This somehow reminded me of Rasheed Wallace and how much I don't miss all the threes he took (and would miss in losses in particular). BTW- the 35 three pointers Orlando took in the game was the most by a Detroit opponent EVER.
- Detroit's defense is allowing 85.25 points per game after four games. Small sample size, but who was worried about the defense? Meanwhile, that "explosive" offense we were all expecting is coming at us at a 87.25 points per game clip.
- I thought it was interesting that Jason Maxiell and DaJuan Summers were both DNP's -- Coach's Decision. Especially Maxiell, who presumably could have been extra help on Dwight Howard.
- Detroit doesn't get much time to savor this victory against a very good Magic team. They head to Toronto and play there tomorrow night at 7:00 PM EST. The Raptors (1-2) will be on two days rest after their nine point loss to Orlando. Detroit also played Orlando again on Friday in Orlando.
- If you missed it, shame on you -- head to NBA.com for the highlights.