The Detroit Pistons couldn’t find answers for the Orlando Magic’s stifling defense, and they could do nothing to stop Magic forward Franz Wagner, who matched a career high with 38 points in Orlando’s 111-99 victory.
The Pistons played a strong first half, but eventually, they stopped sharing the ball, the threes stopped going down, and they started committing all-too-familiar turnovers that really swung the game in Orlando’s favor.
The Pistons were led by 18 points apiece from their starting backcourt, Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. Unfortunately, they couldn’t carry over their strong play into crunch time. The duo committed three costly turnovers, Detroit had 15 on the night and missed free throws in the final minutes.
Ausar Thompson had another strong showing, scoring 17 efficient points to go with seven rebounds and three blocks. It was another game where he was everywhere on the court and good things kept happening. It felt like this might be a game where the Pistons could overcome one of the NBA’s strongest defenses by running, cutting and hitting timely shots behind the energy of Thompson and Ivey. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
Wagner could get whatever he wanted, with the Pistons providing little resistance at the point of attack, off of screens, or at the rim. He was consistently able to use a perimeter screen to attack the basket and the help was either too late or non-existent. By my count, 13 of Wagner’s 17 field goals were in the restricted area. The Pistons allowed Orlando to score 61 points in the paint. That’s just not winning basketball.
Jalen Duren was strong offensively with 15 points and continues to show a nice touch around the basket and provide plenty of rim pressure. What Duren is not doing, however, is playing any semblance of quality defense down low for the Pistons. He is slow to react and too often allows uncontested drives instead of supplying solid help defense.
If the Pistons ever hope to string together some victories, the defense down low needs to improve, and it needs to improve considerably.