'The right direction': Pistons improve to 5-3 at home with resounding win over Magic
Detroit — In their early struggles this season, the Pistons haven’t had very many easy wins, where they could breathe easy in the final minutes.
They had one Friday in beating the Atlanta Hawks by 25 points and they added another on Monday, rolling to a 103-88 victory over the Orlando Magic at Little Caesars Arena.
It’s the second straight home win for the Pistons, who still haven’t won two straight games this season; they’ll try to get that first streak on Wednesday at Charlotte before returning for the home-and-home on Friday against the Hornets.
Luke Kennard broke out of his shooting slump with 20 points and seven assists and Blake Griffin added 17 points and five rebounds for the Pistons (6-11). Bruce Brown had 13 points and seven rebounds and Svi Mykhailiuk tied his career high with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
The Pistons allowed a season-low 88 points, buoyed by good on-ball defense, though the Magic were missing big men Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, putting more of the scoring load on their wings and guard.
“We did a good job (on defense); we made mistakes here and there but that’s to be expected. What we did is execute our game plan defensively, from start to finish for the most part,” Griffin said.
Ross scored 14 of his 19 points in the first half, as the Pistons focused more of their defense on limiting his premium looks at the rim.
“Our defense was exceptional in the second half. We held Terrence Ross to 2-of-6 field goals in the second half,” coach Dwane Casey said. “That was the key and any time you have dynamic players like Ross and Evan Fournier, your attention to detail has to be there and everybody has to be in the right place.
“We did a much better job in the second half than first half but our defense is taking steps in the right direction.”
The Magic (6-10) led, 66-62, in the third quarter after an 8-2 run but the Pistons answered with a 16-2 spurt, punctuated by three straight 3-pointers, from Langston Galloway (12 points), Kennard and Mykhailiuk.
Evan Fournier finished the quarter with a pair of free throws, cutting the Pistons’ lead to 78-70 entering the final period.
The Pistons built the lead to 94-80 after Mykhailiuk’s fourth 3-pointer, at the 6:14 mark and took their largest lead after a Griffin drive with 1:58 remaining. From there, the Magic didn’t get much of a rally mounted in the final minutes.
That the Pistons were able to get a victory with subpar games from Derrick Rose (1-of-11 field goals, season-low two points) and Andre Drummond (seven points and 18 rebounds) is an encouraging development.
“It’s huge; it’s growth of a team. We have guys who are capable of doing that,” Griffin said. “We’ve been preaching in practices and film sessions that as long as we get that win and play the right way, we can’t worry about stats as a team. Guys’ worth goes more than the points column in the box score.”
After the first quarter, the Piston trailed 32-23, with the Magic using a 16-3 run to finish the period and pushed it to double digits on a 3-pointer by D.J. Augustin to open the second. The Pistons countered with a 14-3 run, sparked by Christian Wood, who had 12 points.
Wood had six points during the run, including an alley-oop from Galloway (five assists) and Mykhailiuk’s first 3-pointer. It was an offensive spark that turned the double-digit deficit into a 37-36 lead at the 7:30 mark.
The Magic had a 10-2 run midway through the second and pushed their lead to 48-41, on a 3-pointer by Terrence Ross, but the Pistons finished the quarter with six straight points from Griffin and finished with two free throws by Wood, pulling within 55-53 at halftime.
►Svi Mykhailiuk is settling into a role off the bench. With the reserve unit thinned by the injury to Tony Snell pushing Langston Galloway into the starting lineup, it’s meant more minutes for Mykhailiuk, to which he’s responded well. Defensively, he’s still finding his footing but when he’s had open looks, he’s typically had some success. His improved play bodes well for whenever the Pistons can get back to full strength and having more options off the bench.
►Andre Drummond’s foul troubles continue. He picked up two in the first seven minutes of the first quarter and drew his third in the final minute of the second period. It’s become more of a problem, which has limited his playing time and put more focus on Christian Wood and Thon Maker to play longer minutes at center. Drummond was productive on the glass, with 18 rebounds, but his scoring has suffered.
►Griffin is looking more and more comfortable with his movement and mobility in the past couple of games. He played 32 minutes on Monday and didn’t force shots, doing his damage on just 4-of-8 shooting. The Pistons did a good job of spreading the production around and getting some of the reserves involved. Depth has been a concern this season and getting points off the bench has been one of the best developments of the early part of the season.