No Magic

Orlando revs up its offense as Pistons allow 58 in paint, lose 112-98


The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

WHITE HOT – Two nights after pushing Miami to the wire, the Pistons lost big at lottery-bound Orlando in a game that could prove costly to their playoff chances. The Pistons, now 19-29, allowed the Magic to score 58 points in the paint and shoot past their season scoring average of 95.9 points before the midway point of the fourth quarter while the Magic, who average just 36 points in the paint. Mo Cheeks made a change to the starting lineup, inserting Kyle Singler for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard after Orlando’s Arron Afflalo had enjoyed success early in games against the rookie. The Magic, outrebounded by 16 when they lost at The Palace a week ago, this time won the battle of the backboards 44-36. Victor Oladipo scored 20 off the bench to lead five Orlando players in double figures.

BLUE COLLAR – Josh Smith didn’t have much luck shooting free throws or his numbers would have been even better. But on a frustrating night for the Pistons, Smith dented the score sheet with 25 points and 12 rebounds and played hard throughout the game. He led the charge when the Pistons at least gave themselves a shot to come back late in the third and early in the fourth quarters, cutting a 20-point deficit to 10. Andre Drummond (15 points, 14 rebounds) and Brandon Jennings (15 points, 10 assists) joined Smith with double-doubles.

RED FLAG – Orlando outscored the Pistons 31-17 in the second quarter to take command of the game and did it with a lineup not exactly filled with All-Stars. Orlando started the quarter with five bench players: Kyle O’Quinn, Doron Lamb, E’Twaun Moore, Maurice Harkless and rookie No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo. The Pistons scored just two points with a lineup of Greg Monroe, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jonas Jerebko before Cheeks called timeout after three minutes. The Pistons didn’t regain an offensive rhythm after scoring 26 points in the first quarter until Orlando had taken a lead of between 15 and 20 points in the third quarter.

ORLANDO – Mo Cheeks juggled a lineup that had been essentially static since Game 8 in mid-November when Chauncey Billups sat with knee tendinitis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope became the starter. On Wednesday at Orlando, the rookie sat in favor of Kyle Singler, a move designed to thwart the fast starts the Magic have had against the Pistons, fueled by Arron Afflalo, in previous matchups.

In that narrow sense, the move worked. The Pistons were tied with Orlando after one quarter. It was the start of the second quarter that derailed the Pistons. With a lineup of Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Caldwell-Pope out against a makeshift Orlando second unit, the Pistons scored one basket in seven possessions, committed two turnovers and shot 1 of 5.

The Magic outscored them 31-17 in the quarter with the Pistons committing seven turnovers and shooting 39 percent. Orlando shot past its 95.9 scoring average with 5:22 left in the game, shot 49 percent and scored 58 points in the paint – a whopping 22 more than its average in that area.

“The second quarter hurt us,” Singler said. “We weren’t able to bounce back, for whatever reason. Why we didn’t play well, I don’t know. I think the turnovers hurt us the most and we never really got into a rhythm after that.”

Singler is invariably on the floor to start the second quarter when he comes off the bench, usually with Rodney Stuckey and Andre Drummond – the player Singler most often replaces midway through the first quarter, Drummond then returning with the second unit. This time, Stuckey was first off the bench for Greg Monroe, which meant Monroe was out with Jerebko, Bynum and Caldwell-Pope.

“Whether it’s something we weren’t used to, that could’ve been a factor,” Singler said. “But we’ve played long enough with each other, we should be able to understand where guys are and play well as a team.”

"It is tough. I can’t stand losing. I hate it with a passion..."

- Andre Drummond on the game
Full game quotes
What made the second quarter especially galling for the Pistons was the group that Orlando trotted out included two players who sometimes don’t get off their bench: Kyle O’Quinn and Doron Lamb, with E’Twaun Moore often a situational player, plus up-and-down second-year player Mo Harkless and top pick Victor Oladipo, who led Orlando with 20 points.

“The second quarter, we didn’t take advantage of the guys they had on the floor, for me,” Cheeks said. “We turned the ball over, we didn’t get back, our pick-and-roll defense was not good. It was just a lot of things that allowed them to build a lead in that second quarter and I thought we could’ve played a lot better.”

No getting around it. It was a bad loss and a damaging one to a team that can’t afford many more losses to struggling opponents if it hopes to make good on its preseason expectation of making into the postseason. The Pistons are now 19-29 with 34 games remaining.

“It’s just tough. I can’t stand losing. I hate it with a passion,” said Andre Drummond, one of three Pistons to register a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. “But got to stay positive. Can’t let it get to us.”

Defense remains the consistent nagging issue. Orlando scored with too little resistance at every level – getting into the paint, launching unguarded mid-range jump shots or finding open 3-pointers. The Magic didn’t shoot particularly well from the 3-point line, only 6 of 18, which made their 112 points all the more alarming. After dominating Orlando on the glass in a win at The Palace a week ago, the Magic finished plus-eight in rebounding Wednesday.

“That was a big key tonight, the way they rebounded the ball,” Cheeks said. “They kept balls alive. They did a lot of things well, particularly inside the paint. What was discouraging is that they continued to lay the ball in, particularly in the first half. They got layup after layup and that was the difference in the way they got a cushion to win the game.”

Another byproduct of the move to insert Singler into the starting lineup was the effect it had on bench production. Stuckey scored 14 points but the rest of the bench combined for just six, two baskets from Jonas Jerebko – assuming the role of No. 4 big man with Josh Harrellson missing his second straight game with a knee injury – and a basket by Gigi Datome long after the outcome had been decided. Caldwell-Pope only dented the stat sheet with a foul and a rebound in 13 minutes.

Bynum played just those first three minutes of the second quarter and he and Cheeks had a verbal exchange during the timeout that appeared heated. Bynum declined to speak to reporters afterward.

“Whatever happened with Will and coach, it’s none of your business,” Drummond said. “That’s no disrespect; it’s just none of your business. What goes on in the huddle stays in the huddle. We’re a family here. Every family gets into a battle. They’re good now. Tomorrow, we’ve just got to get better.”

“Heat of the game,” Cheeks said, waving off the incident. “We’ll discuss whatever we need to discuss, but the game was more important than me and Will. The things we didn’t do allowed us to get beat like that.”

The Pistons host Brooklyn on Friday, which comes to The Palace with a prolific 6-foot-8 shooting guard, Joe Johnson. It would seem likely Cheeks would prefer the 6-foot-8 Singler to remain a starter and match up with Johnson, which will put the onus on the bench to pick up its productivity and on everyone to figure out how to solve recurring defensive breakdowns.

“We just didn’t play good basketball,” Singler said. “Turned the ball over and never really got into a rhythm. And our effort was poor, really.”