Looking dispirited, Pistons crushed by lowly Magic

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Orlando, Fla. — It ain’t over until it’s over.

And it’s almost over. It’s another game, another lackluster shooting effort and dreadful defensive effort for the Pistons.

This time, it was the Orlando Magic who doused the Pistons, 115-87, pushing to a 32-point lead after three quarters and providing another embarrassing loss, on Friday night at Amway Center.

It’s the third straight defeat and sixth in the last seven games for the Pistons (34-39), who dropped to 1-6 on the road in March — and only two of those losses have come against teams with winning records (Cleveland and Indiana).

BOX SCORE: Magic 115, Pistons 87

The loss also keeps them in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, with just nine games remaining.

There were few words in a somber locker room after the game and coach Stan Van Gundy’s message to his team seemed to match their effort: “I didn’t have one.”

When asked if his team had given up on the season, Van Gundy was short and terse:

“I don’t know — you’d have to ask them.”

Though some the players seemed to understand the sense of urgency, they acknowledged there is a disconnect between talking about the effort and production needed and getting it done on the court.

Jon Leuer led the Pistons with 16 points and Boban Marjanovic 15. Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris (11 points) were the only other Pistons to score in double figures. The starters sat the fourth quarter, as the Magic (27-46) built an 18-point advantage at halftime and poured it on, with a 35-23 margin in the third quarter.

Through the first three quarters, the Pistons shot 33 percent from the field, with just 11 percent (2-of-11) from beyond the arc — and missed all 11 of their 3-pointers in the second half. The Magic hit 52 percent of their field goals and 46 percent on 3-pointers.

But like much of the three-game road trip, the Pistons didn’t have the energy from the outset of the game and seemed to be lagging on both ends of the court.

And it just got worse as the game went on.

“The energy is off. We don’t really have any pop to us. When we get on the floor, we’re not really embracing each other as a group,” Harris said. “The energy is off; you can see it when we start the games and in the course of the games.

“Energy is not where it needs to be and it’s not just to say make or miss shots — it’s not there as a camaraderie and collectively.”

The Pistons opened 3-of-9 from the field, while Orlando hit 4-of-5, taking an 8-6 advantage at the 9:34 — and never relinquished the lead from there.

After two free throws by Marcus Morris, The Magic answered with a spinning basket by Nikola Vucevic (16 points and eight rebounds) and Evan Fournier added a lay-in. Aaron Gordon punctuated a 6-0 run with a highlight-reel alley-oop. Harris ended the run with a basket but Vucevic answered with a jumper.

Six Magic players scored in double figures, including Elfrid Payton, who had a triple double through three quarters: 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

After a 3-pointer by D.J. Augustin pushed the lead to nine, the Pistons had another 6-0 run, with two free throws by Harris, a drive by Stanley Johnson and a reverse lay-in by Leuer, making it 27-24. But the Magic answered with a jumper by Mario Hezonja, an alley-oop to Bismack Biyombo and a dunk by Biyombo, during a 7-3 spurt.

Jackson, who came off the bench for the second straight game, had a 3-pointer and answered Payton’s lay-up with a drive, trimming the margin to 35-32.

The Magic finished the half on a 22-7 run, with a 3-pointer and a three-point play by Terrence Ross (18 points) and a 3-pointer and reverse by Evan Fournier (15 points). Gordon had two dunks during the spurt, including a reverse alley-oop, to help make it an 18-point halftime lead.

“We’re improving. This is our best win of the year, our most complete game and it’s important that these young guys learn to play the right way and we find some chemistry within our group going into next year,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. @detnewsRodBeard