Denton's Dish: Tuesday Recap vs. Pistons



By John Denton
October 16, 2012

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – With Major League Baseball’s American League Championship Series taking place just a few miles away in downtown Detroit and the presidential debates ruling the airwaves, spectators were at a minimum Tuesday night at The Palace.

The low turnstile turnout could have been a good thing for the Orlando Magic considering the 112-86 beating they took at the hands of the full-strength Detroit Pistons. But the Magic did at least contribute to the spectator count Tuesday night what with veteran starters Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis getting the preseason night off and watching from the sidelines.

Resting the starters played a major role in the Magic (0-4) remaining winless this preseason under first-year coach Jacque Vaughn. Orlando might not have won yet this preseason, but moments such as the 21-point lead against New Orleans in the opener, a seven-point fourth-quarter bulge against Philadelphia and a late lead against Cleveland on Monday prove that the team is making significant strides. Vaughn also saved his starters in Monday’s overtime and he knows avoiding injuries and developing the young players is the most important thing now in the eight-game preseason.

``Coach (Wes) Unseld (Jr.) said as we entered the locker room, `Coach you have a lot of patience,’’’ Vaughn repeated after the game. ``But that’s been our approach and hopefully it pays dividends going into the regular season better as a team and healthy also.’’

Vaughn justified resting his regulars as a way of giving some playing time to some of the younger players in a battle for one of the last spots on the Magic roster. Tuesday’s starting shooting guard, DeQuan Jones, continued to impress with 22 points on nine of 12 shooting for the Magic. Meanwhile, center Gustavo Ayon had 19 points and 10 rebounds against Detroit standout Greg Monroe in his second start of the preseason.

``It’s a back-to-back for the veterans and we’re going to give guys who didn’t play (on Monday) the bulk of the minutes,’’ Vaughn said before the game. ``We want to see some more combinations. And with the maturity of our starters there is just no need pushing it on the second night of a back-to-back. And really it’s that time of the year that we need to get a good look at our final roster spots. We’re two weeks in (to preseason) and two weeks out (to the start of the regular season) at the same time, so it’s a chance to see how some of the young guys play with a lot of minutes.’’

The only downside of the night for the resting Magic starters was when Davis got a technical foul from referee Brian Forte for arguing a non-call from the bench. Davis was incredulous at the whistle, shaking his head for several minutes and talking with the officials during a timeout.

An announced crowd of 9,229 attended the game at The Palace, a facility that used to rumble with noise and boast of sellout streaks in the hundreds. At tipoff, there were approximately 2,000 fans in attendance. And when Pistons’ cheerleaders tossed T-shirts into the crowd following their first six 3-pointers, it appeared as if every fan in attendance would receive a freebie shirt by the end of the night. Detroit ultimately drilled 10 3-pointers in the game and gave away hundreds of T-shirts.

``Regardless of the crowd you’ve still got to get up to play, so you have to try and not pay attention to it and amp yourself up,’’ said Magic point guard E’Twaun Moore, who had nine points and six assists in 21 minutes. ``I’m starting to learn the personalities of the guys on and off the court and get a feel for how everyone likes to play.’’

The Pistons got 19 points from shooting guard Rodney Stuckey and another 15 points from Monroe. Detroit shot better than 60 percent much of the first three quarters of the game before turning the game over to the reserves in the fourth quarter.

After pushing the starters to big minutes a night earlier in a 114-111 overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Vaughn rested Nelson, Redick, Turkoglu and Davis. That foursome arrived at The Palace some three hours before tipoff and got in shooting and conditioning work with the assistant coaches.

The Magic’s core will return to the starting lineup Friday night when the Magic host the Indiana Pacers on Friday at the Amway Center.

The Magic started veteran Quentin Richardson, Josh McRoberts along with Moore, Ayon and Jones. Ayon, only the third-born Mexican player ever to reach the NBA, showed off an array of offensive weapons by hitting mid-range jump shots and running hooks in the lane.

Meanwhile, Jones – a University of Miami product – showed an ability to hit shots when left alone by the defense and he used his awesome athleticism to defend Detroit’s Corey Maggette well. And Jones’ second-quarter dunk over Monroe – a play in which he cupped the ball in his arms as he drove down the lane – proved to be the highlight of the night for the Magic. Jones said playing his first NBA back-to-back didn’t wear on him physically.

``Compared to some of our veteran guys, I’m young. It’s just about taking care of your body, getting your nutritious needs and getting your rest.’’

Jones got the first start of his NBA career Monday in Cincinnati, a moment he called ``a dream come true.’’ But after evaluating the tape of that game, Vaughn said there were positives and negatives for the rookie to learn from. Not gambling and containing dribble penetration are areas that Jones needs to improve in, Vaughn said.

``One of my coaching strategies is that I show the guys the good and the bad,’’ Vaughn said. ``I show them what it looks like when they do the right things. He was a culprit at times of not containing dribble penetration.’’

Detroit had its full complement of starters at its disposal and throttled the Magic in the first half to the tune of 62-38. The Pistons made a whopping 62.2 percent of its shots in the first two quarters and drilled six of eight 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Magic struggled to find much continuity offensively and hit only 41 percent from the floor with 12 turnovers.

Things got ugly in the second quarter when Monroe and Brandon Knight (nine points and three 3-pointers) got hot, allowing the Pistons to pull away from the Magic. Monroe made four straight shots at one point in the second quarter and Knight made three of his first four 3-pointers to put the Pistons up 54-30. At that point in the game, Detroit had made 20 of 33 shots and six 3-pointers, while the Magic were shooting just 36 percent with one three.

Vaughn, who said the starters would see significantly more action over the final three preseason games starting on Sunday, stressed late Tuesday that his rotation is far from set and that there should still be plenty of fighting for jobs over the next two weeks.

``Injuries are a part of basketball and guys on this time have an opportunity and they should take advantage of it,’’ Vaughn said. ``I am completely honest when I say that I have not filled out my top nine, top 10 or top 12 guys on the team. Guys should take advantage of that, and (Tuesday) was a night that guys should have taken advantage of that opportunity.’’


John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at jdenton@orlandomagic.com or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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