Denton's Dish: Magic at Pistons (4/3/12)
By John Denton
April 3, 2012
The Palace at Auburn Hills continues to be a house of horrors for the Orlando Magic even though they got several big efforts on Tuesday from reserves trying to fill in for the loss of injured starters Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson.
The Detroit Pistons gashed the undermanned Magic for 67 percent shooting in the second half and 57 percent for the game in a 102-95 defeat of Orlando on Tuesday night. It was the Magic’s second loss of the season in suburban Detroit and their 12th loss in the last 15 games at The Palace at Auburn Hills.
Orlando’s inability to get stops was particularly frustrating for head coach Stan Van Gundy, who stressed repeatedly in the postgame that the Magic have to get significantly better defensively over the next three weeks before the postseason begins.
``I’m not trying to be negative, but you just can’t keep giving up 56 percent the other night and 57 percent tonight,’’ Van Gundy said. ``And they were both close losses. But if you guard you have a chance to win, but we don’t guard.’’
The loss was particularly damaging for the Magic (32-22), who dropped from third place in the Eastern Conference to fifth after Indiana defeated the New York Knicks 112-104. Orlando has lost its last four games, two of which have come without Howard in the lineup. The Magic have two more wins than Boston (30-22), but the Celtics would nab the fourth seed by virtue of leading the Atlantic Division.
Howard missed his second consecutive game and just the ninth game in his eight-year NBA career because of lingering back spasms. He suffered the injury in last Friday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, and missed Sunday’s game against the Denver Nuggets.
Nelson re-aggravated a calf injury against the Nuggets and was held out of action against the Nuggets. And Anderson, the most seriously injured of the trio, was unable to play because of a right ankle that he badly sprained on Sunday.
Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis did his best to carry the short-handed offense by scoring a career-best 31 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu made six of seven shots and scored 16 points, while Chris Duhon contributed 13 points and five assists in a starting role.
``It wasn’t enough. We have to play better defense,’’ Davis said. ``We have to take a personal agenda and make sure the guy that we’re guarding doesn’t score. And then we have to have another agenda of team defense. If a guy does get by we have to be there to defend.
``We won’t contend for nothing if we don’t defend,’’ Davis continued. ``I don’t care how many threes we shoot or dunks we make, we won’t contend if we don’t defend. They might as well just cancel Christmas and pack it in for the regular season (if the defense doesn’t improve). The teams that are successful are the ones that play defense. We have to find it.’’
The Magic just had no answers defensively without Howard, the winner of the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year each of the past three seasons. Denver shot 56 percent against the Magic on Sunday and Detroit shot 57 percent on Tuesday, the highest any team in the league has shot against the Magic all season.
Tied at 74-all to start the fourth quarter, the Magic allowed Detroit to make 12 of 18 shots in the fourth period. That was in line with the 67 percent that the Pistons (20-33) shot in the second half (21 of 31). The Pistons, winners of eight of the last 10 games at The Palace, scored 56 of their 102 points in the paint.
``It’s frustrating because I’m not seeing improvement (defensively),’’ Van Gundy said. ``I thought our effort was good and I didn’t think there was a lack of effort even at the defensive end. But we have not built the habits to be a good enough defensive team. And that’s every day, every practice, every walk-through, every game and every possession – we haven’t built those habits. Even when we’re making a good enough effort, we’re not good enough at what we do.’’
Here’s a look back at the key moments from Tuesday’s road game in suburban Detroit:
On Sunday against Denver, Davis had 18 points and set new career highs for rebounds (16) and offensive boards (nine). On Tuesday, Davis eclipsed his previous career high of 24 points with 31 more points. He made 11 of 22 shots and eight of 10 free throws while playing an exhausting 41 minutes.
``For the way we play, he’s more effective as a center than as a forward,’’ Van Gundy said of Davis. ``He played extremely well in the two games. He’s tried to play exactly the way we need him to play. I really like what he is doing. His effort and energy has been really good.’’
Moving from his natural position at small forward to power forward, Turkoglu took advantage of matchup against the bulkier Jason Maxiell. Turkolgu had his way with Maxiell on the perimeter, using his quickness and dribbling abilities to shake free for jump shots.
Turkoglu’s work helped the Magic shoot 51 percent in the first half. The Magic did so despite having just five assists on their 19 baskets in the first two quarters. They got outrebounded 25-16 and outscored 28-16 in the paint early on, but stayed close by limiting the turnovers to just five in the first half.
Rookie Brandon Knight hit a layup after he set a (moving) screen on J.J. Redick, temporarily injuring the Magic guard. After the action moved to the other end of the floor and Hedo Turkoglu, referees stopped play to whistle a technical foul on Redick.
Ben Gordon hit a free throw and then Tayshaun Prince converted two layups – the second one coming off an ill-advised cross-court pass by Hedo Turkoglu to give the Pistons a 50-47 advantage at intermission.
``We were a little relaxed on the defensive end,’’ Magic guard Jason Richardson said. ``We have to do a better job, but were missing Dwight, who is our leader on that end of the floor. There are going to be times when he might be in foul trouble and we have to learn to play without him. But I’m proud of the team because we fought through having three starters out.’’
Said Nelson: ``Especially with lower-body extremities you have that issue of whether to play on it and or stay off it. I just have to be smart about it and continue to treat my body.’’
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at email@example.com
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