Pistons beat Magic 105-93 with help from young guards

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

It was the same two teams, but it wasn’t even close to the same result.

The Pistons and Orlando Magic played Sunday and it was a mismatch almost from the start, as All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and guard Evan Fournier, who combined for 66 points to fuel the Magic to a nine-point win.

In Tuesday’s rematch, the Pistons looked like a different team, with better defense, energy and a big boost from their young point guards, pushing them to a turnaround win, 105-93, at Amway Center.

Rookie Saben Lee (21 points) and Dennis Smith Jr. (14 points) each had a season high and Jerami Grant added 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Pistons (9-22), who ended their three-game losing streak and continue with a back-to-back at New Orleans on Wednesday.

Lee had his previous high of 12 points in Sunday’s matchup; he played that much better in the second game of the mini-series. For his standout performance, Lee got the game ball from coach Dwane Casey.

"It was a great feeling having my teammates there and congratulating me and coach Casey giving me the game ball,” Lee said. “(My mindset was) anything I could do to positively impact the game to get a win."

Lee wasn’t the only one who chipped in for a superior defensive effort and the turnabout from Sunday’s 13-point loss in Orlando. The Pistons caused 12 turnovers but turned them into 20 points, getting out in transition and putting pressure on the Magic (13-18).

The effort started with a better focus on Vucevic and Fournier and setting a tone defensively. 

“Tonight, we have a little bit more in mind of what to expect from those guys. The other day, they came out and we knew they were a really good team. We knew we had to worry about Fournier, who has been playing pretty good and Terrence Ross,” said guard Josh Jackson, who had 18 points.

Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) drives to the basket in front of Orlando Magic forward Chuma Okeke (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Orlando, Fla.

“I just feel like it was a surprise to everybody how these guys actually were and how little space they need to get their shot off. We were just more on high alert today, just knowing what to expect, and we executed the game plan pretty well.”

Without their starting point guard, Delon Wright, for the next two weeks, the Pistons were looking for some answers at point guard.

Maybe they have some clearer direction with the play of Lee and Smith.

The Pistons had a better start and jumped to a 14-4 advantage in the first four minutes, behind six points from Smith, whose performance was lost a little behind Lee’s career night.

The Pistons held a 53-51 lead at halftime but pushed ahead to double digits with a 16-6 run, with six points from Grant. Smith ended the run with a fadeaway jumper and a 3-pointer, for a 69-57 advantage.

The Pistons ended the third quarter with a 14-point advantage and Lee helped get things going in the fourth quarter with his second career 3-pointer, boosting the lead to 87-71. Jackson, who had 18 points and six rebounds, scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. Back-to-back baskets by Lee and Jackson helped push the lead to 20 with 5:02 left, and the Pistons held on the rest of the way.

Vucevic, who was named to the All-Star team before the game, finished with 20 points and nine rebounds and Fournier 14 points for the Magic.

rbeard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Detnewsrodbeard