Rod Beard of The Detroit News beat writer breaks down Detroit's 115-106 OT defeat in Orlando. Rod Beard
Orlando, Fla. — It wasn’t about getting a gutty win, a blowout win or even a road win.
The Pistons just needed a win.
With the regular season down to its final 21 games, they weren’t in a position to be picky about the opponent, the margin or how pretty it looked.
They got none of it.
The Pistons had a slow start in the first half, got it together in the fourth quarter but when it fell apart, they couldn’t put it back together again. The result was a head-scratching 115-106 loss in overtime to the struggling Orlando Magic on Friday night at Amway Center.
The Pistons’ road woes continued, falling to a dismal 1-12 mark in the last 13 games away from Little Caesars Arena.
Their last road win was Jan. 10 at Brooklyn; they continue their three-game road trip with a back-to-back on Saturday against the Miami Heat, whose lead extended to three games ahead of the Pistons (29-33) for eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
With the season down to 20 games, Van Gundy isn’t concerned about margins or must-win games; it’s more a focus on playing to a certain level.
And the Pistons didn’t do that in the last six minutes of regulation and in the overtime period.
Detroit coach on "frustrating night" in 115-106 OT loss to Orlando. Rod Beard
“I don’t care about (making up ground in the playoff race). I’ve said that — and you guys keep asking me. What matters is that we play well and win games,” Van Gundy said. “We have no control over the rest of it. I don’t (care) about that.”
James Ennis III and Reggie Bullock had 21 points each, Andre Drummond 10 points and 15 rebounds and Blake Griffin 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
The Magic (19-43), who had lost their previous seven games, surged to an 11-2 final margin in the overtime period, when Evan Fournier scored seven of his 17 points. The Pistons didn’t score a field goal in the extra session and managed just two free throws from Anthony Tolliver (12 points), who was fouled on a 3-point attempt.
“We couldn’t score down the stretch; we didn’t play well. Again, we just stand around,” Van Gundy said. “I went back to (the starters); those are the guys who are supposed to win games for us. It’s not their fault but we don’t move when they play.”
Fournier scored the first six points, before Tolliver’s free throws, then D.J. Augustin (20 points, five rebounds and nine assists) added two free throws, before Fournier split another pair. Nikola Vucevic (22 points, 12 rebounds and six assists) finished the scoring with two free throws with 0.2 seconds remaining.
The Pistons looked to be in control, with a 100-93 lead after a putback by Griffin and one of two free throws on the next possession.
But the Magic answered with a three-point play by Aaron Gordon (27 points and 13 rebounds) and a jumper by Vucevic to pull within two. After Drummond missed a pair of free throws, Gordon again connected on a 3-pointer, for a 101-100 lead with 3:00 left.
The Pistons got another lead with two free throws from Bullock. The Magic pulled ahead on a 3-pointer by Fournier with 47.2 seconds remaining but the Pistons tied it with 7.2 seconds left on an outlet pass from Griffin to Ennis, who was streaking to the rim for an uncontested dunk to tie it at 104.
“It’s very disappointing,” forward Anthony Tolliver said. “We obviously had our opportunities down the stretch; we just weren’t able to capitalize on them. We just went cold in that overtime and for some reason, shots didn’t fall for us at all.
“It is frustrating but we have another one (Saturday) but with every loss, it puts a little bit of extra pressure on you, but we just have to keep working and keep fighting.”
The reserve unit sparked the opening fourth-quarter run, with Tolliver hitting a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws on the first two Pistons possessions. After a steal and layin by Mario Hezonja to pull the Magic within one. Dwight Buycks answered with a steal and lay-in and hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, to push the lead to 92-86.
Here are some other observations from the matchup:
■ Langston Galloway suffered a cut above his right eye after a collision with a Magic player in the second quarter. He fell to the court in a heap and made it back down the court but had to get medical attention. After going to the locker room, he received three stitches and played in the second half.
■ The Pistons got their bench going, after one of their best showings of the season against the Bucks on Wednesday. The reserves accounted for 35 points, including 12 from Buycks, 10 from Anthony Tolliver and nine from Stanley Johnson.
■ Johnson again looked comfortable with the second unit, getting a chance to free-flow and handle the ball on the perimeter and in transition. He finished 3-of-8 from the field, with 1-of-3 on 3-pointers.
■ The Pistons have a quick turnaround, with a late flight to Miami before Saturday’s matchup with the Heat. It’s another condensed trip, with three games in four nights, culminating with a matchup at Cleveland on Monday.