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Orlando finally beats Detroit

Okay, so Chauncey took a few liberties with the letter of the law with an extra step or two, but you have to admit that was a damn good shot. (Video via FanHouse.) I admit that as it left his fingertips I actually started shaking my head in disbelief that he settled for such a poor look, but in hindsight, I know nothing.

Of course, that was followed up by Rashard Lewis doing his thing, which is a shame, since it means that Chauncey's highlight will be quickly forgotten instead of played over on those end-of-season montages we'll inevitably see come April.

It was mentioned in the comments, but what was Rip Hamilton doing on Lewis in the first place? If you remember, Hamilton was initially guarding Hedo Turkoglu (the in-bounder) before the Magic called a timeout and drew up another play. He did a good job, jumping up and down right in his face while denying him the easy in-bounds pass.

After the Magic drew up a new play, the Pistons opted to leave Turkoglu wide open with Tayshaun Prince just kind of drifting in space near the top of the key. Hindsight is 20/20 (see: my reaction to Chauncey's shot), but wouldn't it make more sense to keep someone right in Hedo's face, especially since Prince was obviously concerned about a quick pass back to Hedo? (Watch the vid again, you'll see what I mean.)

But hey, the Magic are a respectable team, and probably even a good one. And even though this loss was Detroit's third in a row, there's no shame in losing to a fellow division leader, especially when there were some positives the team can take.

For one, the offense seemed to be clicking. Entering this game, Rasheed Wallace had failed to crack double-digit scoring or collect more than seven rebounds in any of his last four. Against the Magic, he had 15 points, 15 boards and five steals against perhaps the best center in the league. Dwight Howard, meanwhile, was held 23 points and eight boards (seven fewer than his average).

And while some members of the bench are still struggling (sorry, don't mean to point fingers Jarvis and Rodney), it was nice to see Jason Maxiell break out with 11 points and seven boards in 21 minutes, easily his best performance since at least the Boston game. (Semi-random link: my HOOPSWORLD colleague Joel Bringham recently did a Q&A with Maxiell.)

While there have been a few bumps lately, the coaching staff isn't ready to deviate from the "Rodney Stuckey is a point guard, honest!" company line ... probably because they're not allowed to. From the Freep:

Pistons coach Flip Saunders considered but did not activate point guard Lindsey Hunter on Monday as rookie Rodney Stuckey continues to struggle. Saunders said the issue was up to team president Joe Dumars.

"That's something we'll sit down and see," Saunders said. "We knew we'd go through this. There's no other way. We can't just say we're going to throw away his rookie year because he didn't have it.

"I think he's strong enough as a kid to fight through it, and if he has one or two breakout games, it's going to get his confidence up."

Before you get too down on Stuckey's performance, consider this: he has exactly 16 games under his belt and has played 20 minutes or more in a game only four times. He's still green as hell and trying to figure out what the defense is throwing at him. From the DetNews:

"He was having some success and then teams made an adjustment to him and he's struggled," Porter said. "He has to find out how he can attack out of a zone set. It's more difficult, but he just has to keep believing in himself and continue to be aggressive when he has his opportunities."

Porter said Stuckey will learn to find creases in zone defenses, just like he does against man-to-man defenses.

"He will learn once you swing the ball and get the zone moving, there will be creases he can attack," Porter said.

That kind of recognition can only come with time, especially when you consider Stuckey hasn't even been able to practice for most of the year.

As for the starting backcourt, Billups and Rip Hamilton remain locked in. Rip hit 8 of 17 shots, which means he's dangerously close to shooting .500 for the year: he's technically at .498 with 299 field goals in 600 attempts. For a guy who does most of his scoring outside of the paint, that's extremely impressive.

The Pistons continue to give Jarvis Hayes a long leash. He went 0-for-4 and is shooting just .228 over his last seven games, not to mention just 1-for-17 behind the arc spanning his last nine. Is it a slump or a regression toward the mean?

Hayes shot over .400 from three-point land the first two months, and even with his recent struggles he's at .363 for the season, better than his career average. Same goes for his regular field-goal percentage -- he's at .424 for the year, .404 for his career). I think early in the year we were too quick to assume his hot start was actual improvement from being in a "better" situation. Instead, it seems he's more or less the player he always was. Shocking, I know. Also disappointing.

Last but not least, this was Orlando's first win in 10 tries against Detroit -- and don't think that didn't mean something to the Magic. Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel said the game "had the same electricity of a playoff game" and Rashard Lewis was waiting for this all season:

Lewis hasn't been here for most of the torture inflicted by the Pistons, but he heard his new teammates talk of exorcising their ghosts shortly after signing this summer.

"It has been talked about since the day I got here," Lewis said. "I was just trying to do what I could to get us over that hump against these guys."

So yeah, unbeknownst to you, me or the Pistons, the Magic viewed this game as their own little Ohio State-Michigan. How many people in Detroit's locker room do you think were waiting for this game since the start of the season, and how many do you think didn't even realize they were playing Orlando this week until the coaches told them to pack warm-weather clothes for the road trip? For Orlando's sake, here's to hoping they left something in reserve: they'll be coming to Detroit for a re-match on Friday.

Magic 102, Pistons 100 box score [ESPN]