Sluggish 2nd sinks Pistons in Jackson's return
Auburn Hills — Reggie Jackson’s return was a welcome sight for the Pistons fans at The Palace. But on the same night Jackson made his season debut, the defense departed — and the Pistons paid for it.
After a good start, they followed with a lackluster second quarter, allowing 35 points, which put them in a hole they couldn’t dig out of. The result was a 98-92 loss to the Magic on Sunday night at The Palace.
The loss snapped the Pistons’ three-game win streak and well as their seven straight wins against the Magic — including the last four at home.
“We were terrible defensively,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Our offensive numbers were good enough to win and we just didn’t put enough into that game.”
Jackson, who missed the first 21 games after recovering from tendinitis treatments in his knee and thumb, made his first shot of the game — a 3-pointer after an offensive rebound — and finished with 18 points and four assists in 23 minutes.
He was on a minutes restriction, but played about the first five or six minutes of each period, a pattern Van Gundy said will continue until Jackson can get his endurance and stamina up.
Offensively, Jackson didn’t seem to show much rust, but on the defensive end is where he thinks he has to make up the most from his time off.
“I felt good, but it’ll take some time to get wind and acclimated with my teammates again. I felt good but wish we could have come out with a win,” said Jackson, who shot 7-of-12 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“I feel like I’m a little behind others in terms of game shape but with defensive coverages and rotations I was a little rusty. With my offense, I felt good.”
Marcus Morris led the way for the Pistons (11-11) with 21 points and Andre Drummond 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Pistons looked to put the game away early, as they had in their last three wins, by jumping to a 27-18 lead with 2:32 left in the first quarter, but the Magic (9-12) scored the last five points of the period, with a lay-in by Nikola Vucevic (16 points) and a jumper by Serge Ibaka (21 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four blocks) in the final two minutes.
The Magic took the lead, 32-31, with another spurt, opening the second quarter with a 9-5 push, with a 3-pointer by Jeff Green and finished with a Green drive. But the Pistons answered with six straight points, on a drive by Darrun Hilliard, a putback by Tobias Harris and a step-back jumper by Jackson.
Later in the period, the Magic took the lead on a 3-pointer by Green — who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second quarter — and a dunk by Bismack Biyombo, to make it 48-46. They finished the half with 10-4 run, including two baskets by Ibaka, for a 58-50 halftime lead.
The Magic shot 63 percent from the field in the first half, including 73 percent (16-of-22) in the second quarter and never relinquished the lead after that.
Van Gundy lamented the lack of defensive effort in the first half, which has been a point of emphasis in the past couple weeks, with less-than-stellar results.
“It’s disappointing but if you look at our defensive effort, we’ve alternated playing defense and not defending for seven games,” Van Gundy said. “If we’re going to be an every-other-night type team that brings defensive effort every other night, we’re going to be up and down.”
The Pistons made it close with a 9-0 run early in the third, started by a Jackson jumper, a pick-and-roll play to Drummond, a 3-pointer from Morris and a drive by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. That closed the deficit to 61-59 with 8:58 left in the period.
Jackson had seven points in the period, but the Magic surged down the stretch, with six straight points from Vucevic, after the Pistons had cut the lead to three. Vucevic’s final jumper in the stretch started a 7-0 run, with a 3-pointer by D.J. Augustin and a jumper by Ibaka to make it 76-65.
The Pistons closed again, finished the period with baskets by Jon Leuer, Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith to make it a 78-73 deficit entering the fourth quarter. The lead got to four after another Jackson step-back jumper but the Magic answered again, with a 6-0 run, including two baskets by Vucevic.
The Magic took their largest lead, 95-82, after a 3-pointer by Evan Fournier, his first field goal of the game.
Harris had a bank and a 3-pointer, with a 3-pointer by Caldwell-Pope to close within 95-90 with 40 seconds left, but the Pistons didn’t get any closer.