Orlando, Fla. —Confidence is an amazing thing isn't it?
The agenda-less, unselfish basketball Stan Van Gundy has been begging for has showed up in spades and his team played the part of party crashers in the place that Van Gundy made his name as a top coach against his former team.
Whether it was Andre Drummond dominating his matchup with Nikola Vucevic or Jodie Meeks showing why the Pistons signed him to a lucrative free-agent contract over the summer with devastating 3-pointer after 3-pointer, the Detroit Pistons have new life
The improving Orlando Magic happened to be the third straight victim of a team slowly pulling itself off life support and possibly, to "critical condition" in the Eastern Conference with another blowout win, a 109-86 drubbing of the Magic Tuesday at Amway Center.
Meeks scored 34 off the bench, with nine triples coming one short of the team record set by Joe Dumars, making all six of his attempts in the first half to score 20. For whatever reason, the Magic kept Meeks open and he obliged, as the Pistons are 5-4 since he returned from an early-season back injury.
"I think when I hit one I feel like I'm hot. A couple shots I knocked down. I took what was open," Meeks said. "Tonight it was me, but tomorrow it can be Jonas (Jerebko) or (Kentavious Caldwell-) Pope. I wasn't but I wished I'd knocked it down (Dumars' 3-point record). I felt good out there tonight, we gotta keep it rolling."
"We're playing well. We have to go into the New Year with the same attitude. Sharing the ball."
Of Meeks' second-quarter barrage, Van Gundy said: "Nobody's gonna play like that very often, that second quarter was incredible. Jodie can score, there's no question. Everybody wanted to give him the ball. We're playing better. Offensively we're a lot better."
Of course, the easy thing to say is without Josh Smith, the chemistry is better — and the Pistons' 3-0 record since banishing him is starting to look like an early Christmas gift, especially for Drummond.
Drummond's effect was measurable, not only in the numbers but his spirit permeated through the rest of the team. His blocked shots turned into fast breaks that finished with alley-oop dunks in a couple of the best defensive sequences of the year — plays where he went from helping on a Tobias Harris post-up to blocking a shot attempt from rookie Elfrid Payton.
"It's all about timing. It was a little rough at the beginning of the year, rotating over and contesting shots (but) I was picking up fouls," Drummond said "Stan told me don't worry about it, you're gonna learn when to come over and contest shots. I take my hat off to Stan for beating it in my head the past couple months."
Drummond snagged 22 rebounds in addition to scoring 17 points and blocking three shots, as only the Magic's short-lived "Hack-a-Dre" system slowed him down, because nobody wearing Magic white wanted any part of him.
"To have 22 rebounds and only play 30 minutes and not play the fourth is incredible," Van Gundy said.
The Pistons went on a 20-5 run to start the fourth quarter to finalize matters, as Joel Anthony came off the bench to erase virtually any and every shot attempt that appeared near the rim, with four blocked shots in the first six minutes.
"To me, the guy who really opened the game up was Joel Anthony," Van Gundy said. "He really changed the whole thing."
In one startling sequence, the Pistons' track stars on the wings, Meeks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, defended like bandits on the perimeter, getting steals and leading to fast break scores.
On the bench, Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe and Drummond danced around like happy kids, genuinely excited at the exploits of their teammates as Van Gundy couldn't muster a smile but his satisfaction with his team's effort was evident—as Jennings yelled to the media, "We're gonna keep this going!"
All they had to do was get ahold of Oladipo's penetration and they would be home free, after the improving guard gashed their defense for a quick 13 points. They limited Vucevic's inside looks, controlled the glass and held the Magic to 20 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
And it was the bench and their defense that set the table for another blowout. D.J. Augustin (11 points, 10 assists) keyed a 9-2 second quarter run that pushed the Pistons ahead by seven at the half, before the starters continued matters in the third to lead by 10.
Then for their second straight night, they did the clowning instead of being clowned.
Confidence is indeed an amazing thing.