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No magic for Orlando as Detroit goes up 2-0

Dwight Howard is sadBy now, you know who won and you've seen the box score, right? If not, catch up:

Pistons 98, Magic 90

Just like Game 1, it was another eight-point victory. It didn't feel that close, though, as the Pistons led by as many as 15 early in the fourth quarter before allowing the Magic to "get back in the game" by cutting the deficit into single-digits. You knew, I knew and they knew that Orlando was never actually going to win the game, but they were just close enough where they felt like they had to foul on every Pistons possession down the stretch, which, if nothing else, helped Rip Hamilton salvage his night.

Remember how I suggested Hamilton might not need to play 40-plus minutes? Well he actually led the team with 45. Did his sore left wrist bother him? It's hard to say. He finished with 22 points, but over half of that total came from the charity stripe (12-14) where he shot 6-6 in the final 42 seconds. From the field, he shot just 5-14 and had just 10 points through three quarters.

It's hard to argue with the end result -- namely, going up 2-0 -- but it's also not hard to wonder why he didn't get at least a few more minutes of rest. Flip Murray played a total of eight minutes, and even though he was in the game when Orlando started a 10-1 run in the second quarter, he finished with a +/- of -1 -- obviously not great, but good enough to be a stopgap. It would have been nice to see him spell Rip a little bit longer, especially since it seems like part of Orlando's game plan to get rough with Rip, fouling him hard and sending him to the floor whenever possible.

"I'm sick and tired of getting hit hard out there, I'll tell you that," said Hamilton, who finished with 22 points. "But it's a part of the game."

Lindsey Hunter spent the first three quarters on the bench before getting into the game in the fourth. The first thing he did upon entering was miss a long three-pointer and turn the ball over on a palming violation. All in all, he played just two minutes, which amazingly was long enough to finish -7 on the night.

I understand that the rotation gets shortened in the playoffs, but I'm still not a fan of pouring so many minutes onto Chauncey Billups (42) and Hamilton (although giving Hunter the quick hook was definitely the correct call). It's not just the fatigue factor I'm worried about but also potential injuries -- memories of Rip turning his ankle in Round 1 against the Bucks last year are still fresh in my mind.

However, as I said in the game comments, I'm guessing that Flip Saunders is just determined to get this series over in four, assuming that any wear and tear will be mitigated by the extra rest, since the first round drags on forever and the Miami/Chicago series will likely be a long one. That strategy requires the players to cooperate and not give away a game in Orlando, though. A sweep is possible, but Detroit hasn't had one since the 1989-90 season.

As you know, Dwight Howard is the only mismatch Orlando can throw at Detroit, but he was completely held in check to the tune of eight points and 11 boards. The Pistons didn't even need to send him to the line to prevent him from scoring, as he shot just 3-9 from the field and attempted just three free throws. After the game we learned that he was battling a pre-game illness. From the Detroit Free Press:

"Dwight was, uh, Dwight was sick, quite honestly," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "Just didn't have anything. Before the game, nausea. Intense stomach pain. That's about all I can tell you."

However, Howard chatted with reporters and looked to be in good spirits before the game, talking about how he was looking forward to building on his Game 1 outing of 13 points and 19 rebounds.

Howard was not made available to the media after the game. A team representative said Howard couldn't address the media because he was vomiting too much.

Nice break for Detroit, though I'm guessing they won't be so lucky in Game 3. Even so, it probably matter -- I predicted Pistons in five before the series started, but I'll be shocked if this series comes back to Michigan after two games in Orlando.

Update: I didn't get to it here, but if you watched the game you know that Rasheed Wallace was on top of his game yet again, hitting the boards (11), and scoring 17, including this three:

Pistons 98, Magic 90 [ESPN]
Howard ineffective, no spark for Magic [Detroit Free Press]
Howard getting education [Detroit News]