Pistons force OT, but lose a tough one to Magic to head into All-Star break
Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 116-112 overtime loss to the Orlando Magic at Amway Center
A BREAK, INDEED – The Pistons went into the All-Star break off of a crushing loss at Orlando – and a break is in order after they’ve just experienced the busiest month in the NBA. Over the final 26 days leading to their week off, the Pistons played 15 games – more than any team in the league. They did it around injuries – they played all 15 without Blake Griffin and Luke Kennard, six without Derrick Rose, three without Reggie Jackson and Tony Snell, and five without Markieff Morris and Svi Mykhailiuk – and through the trade deadline, which saw Andre Drummond leave and Brandon Knight and John Henson arrive. Going into Wednesday’s game, the Pistons had lost 212 games to injury this season, third behind Golden State and Washington, which went into training camp with the knowledge they’d be without stars John Wall and Klay Thompson for the season. The Pistons had to adjust on the fly to injuries to Jackson and Griffin in preseason and to Kennard in December. The Pistons, who trailed by 22 in the first half and led by seven midway through the fourth quarter, tied the game at 105 on Christian Wood’s follow dunk with 20 seconds to play. Nikola Vucevic, who had missed all six of his 3-point tries, then hit one that touched every part of the rim before dropping with 5.5 seconds to play. Langston Galloway tied it on a clutch triple from the top of the arc, producing the fifth overtime of the last 18 games after not having any prior to that. The Pistons scored on just one of their first six overtime possessions but tied the game on a Christian Wood put-back dunk with 1:25 to play. After Orlando regained the lead, the Pistons committed their 20th turnover and the Magic went up by three when Markelle Fultz split a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left. Galloway got another clean look to tie, missing that one, and Orlando won an ensuing jump ball to ice the win.
RUST IMPACT – Derrick Rose and Svi Mykhailiuk returned from their five-game absences and the rust showed. Rose finished with two points and four assists with three turnovers in 17 minutes. Dwane Casey re-inserted Rose with 1:03 left in a tie game after he’d gone 1 of 11 to that point. Rose missed a runner from 10 feet on the next possession, then came out of the game in a defensive substitution. He re-entered with 1:43 left in overtime and the Pistons trailing by two points, missing a step-back jump shot with about 50 seconds to play and the score tied. Rose finished 1 of 13. Mykhailiuk was 1 of 4 with two turnovers in nine minutes through three quarters, but he hit a huge triple with 8:03 to play to pull the Pistons within a point, part of a 13-0 run that saw them take a seven-point lead with seven minutes to play. He finished with eight points and three rebounds, hitting 2 of 6 shots and 1 of 4 from the 3-point arc. Markieff Morris, meanwhile, put his imprint on the game in his second game since returning from his five-game absence. He had the same issues with timing in his return on Monday, shooting 3 of 11 in a loss to Charlotte. When Morris missed seven games spanning December and January with a foot injury, he struggled in his first two games back – shooting a combined 2 of 19 – before going on a tear, scoring 68 points over his next four games and hitting 11 of 20 from the 3-point arc. The Pistons trailed 41-23 with 8:15 left in the first half when Morris checked into the game for the first time. They outscored the Magic 32-18 over the remainder of the half, including a 30-12 stretch after the deficit grew to 22 at 47-25. Morris hit a triple during the fourth-quarter run and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
BIGS AUDITIONS – Thon Maker and Christian Wood are both headed to free agency and the Pistons will use the final 25 games out of the All-Star break to evaluate them as they decide how to allocate the approximately $36 million they’ll have in cap space. Wood and Maker again started alongside each other up front and both continued to take advantage of increased opportunity in the wake of Andre Drummond’s exit via trade. Maker, who scored a season-high 19 points at Oklahoma City last week in the first game after the Drummond trade, finished with 18 points and two rebounds in 23 minutes. He hit 6 of 7 shots, including 2 of 3 from the 3-point line, and all four of his free throws. Wood finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds in a season-high 38 minutes. Casey has used five big men to man the two power positions in the two games since Morris returned from injury. He cut it to four in Wednesday’s second half, though, cutting John Henson out of the mix. Sekou Doumbouya again struggled, shooting 1 of 6 with three boards in 14 minutes.