What's the best cure to end a five-game losing streak? Play someone that's worse than you. Don't get me wrong, Orlando isn't far from the Pistons' lowly now 1-9 depths, but there's too much talent and enthusiasm for Jacque Vaughn's men to be THAT terrible. No one can say that Detroit would be underrated after Coach Lawrence Frank's team humiliated the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. Orlando would battle to the end and prevail at the Palace of Auburn Hills 110-106 to earn Coach Vaughn his first road win. It took a JJ Redick clutch 3-pointer off a drawn up Vaughn inbounds play to put Orlando up two with 42.8 seconds left in the game. Then a tough Glen Davis runner to put it away with 15.3 remaining before the Orlando bench was all smiles after trailing by 13 at one point in the second half. Add to that some extra clutch free throws and Orlando's 15-of-17 triumph from the stripe is one happy Dwight-less change all of Orlando will embrace. The now 3-5 Magic literally willed themselves to victory and wins like this build character for the rest of any season.
Coach Vaughn on Redick's clutch 3-pointer late: "Great, great shot. He's a guy who when he shoots I think it's going in every single time...He deserves to make shots."
23 points and 5 assists from Redick is a wonderful way to bust out of a shooting slump. No one can deny how vital co-captain Jameer Nelson is to this Magic roster. Jameer played and started his second game of the year after returning from a 6-game groin and ankle injury hiatus. 'Mighty Mite' poured in 13 points, 10 assists, 4 boards and 2 steals in his necessary return. Nik Vucevic had his struggles against Detroit's frontcourt depth, but credit to the former Sixer who produced 11 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. Any time Glen Davis makes more shots than he misses, it's going to be a great night for him. Big Baby is bouncing back from earlier struggles as Glen posted 17 points and 13 rebounds. Let's not forget Arron Afflalo's 19 points off 50% shooting. Orlando may have 5 defeats on the young season, but coming into Friday, none of those opponents they lost to had a worse record than 5-3. Again, I'm Mr. Optimistic in my observations.
Coach Vaughn on letting Jameer motivate guys in the huddle: "I let him be a leader. There are times in the games it's not meant for a coach to say anything, it's meant for a player...He did a great job rallying our guys."
Detroit had the better start, utilizing their size advantage to attack the paint at will. This is where Jameer Nelson's calming influence came in, as well as his ability to destroy Jason Maxiell's ankles. Magic were only down 13-11, and then Jameer got subbed out. Other than Andrew Nicholson, Vaughn's bench got shoved around in the paint. Despite a 61.1% shooting first period, the Magic only trailed 25-22. A crafty Gustavo Ayon baseline reverse lay-up would cap off a slow but solid 15-2 Magic run with Orlando obtaining a 26-25 lead. The Magic couldn't get the timely stops needed to lower Detroit's efficiency. The Pistons led 50-44 at the break behind 56.8 FG%. Orlando's huge offensive rebounding advantage (7-1) was what kept the Magic in the game heading into the locker room. Afflalo, the former Piston, led all scorers at the half with 12 points on just seven shot attempts.
Coach Vaughn on Glen Davis' performance: "He was unbelievable...He was just pursuing the basketball. He just didn't want to lose. There was an element of will he wanted to impose on the game."
Jameer Nelson began the second half still looking for his first points (0-of-5 on FGs) but did provide 5 assists and 2 steals. Even though his shot was off, 'Mighty Mite' raised offensive tempo and upped the ball movement his first twelve minutes in the game. Just because it wouldn't be Tayshaun Prince if he didn't destroy the Magic, the former Kentucky anorexic patient scored ten points in the first 3:30 of the third period. Unacceptable defense by Afflalo to allow that. Tayshaun has been annihilating Orlando for almost a decade now (since the '03 playoffs when he started guarding Tracy McGrady). Orlando trailed by 13 at this point. Thanks to some huddle-challenging by Jameer, and hustle by Ayon and Nicholson, Orlando went on a 6-0 run late in the quarter to only trailing 71-75 heading into the final twelve minutes. Goose had 6 points and was playing his best ball in a Magic uniform. Detroit settling and missing some jumpers was a massive lifeline.
Could that slight momentum carry over? With 7:53 remaining, JJ Redick drilled two free throws and Orlando finally regained an 87-86 lead. Be proud for how hard the men in black and white scratched and clawed despite coughing up an abundance of points in the paint. Detroit was absolutely abusing Orlando inside, but the Magic continued to meticulously pick the Pistons' defensive weaknesses apart. It slowly but surely paid off, and the Magic now head to Toronto for a Sunday afternoon affair with a Raptors team that can definitely be had on their court. E'Twaun Moore boosted the bench with 6 points. Josh McRoberts had a shockingly pleasant seven. Orlando is now 3-0 on this 2012-2013 campaign when they win the opening tip. Then again, Jameer Nelson hasn't lost a contest yet either. Let's see if Andrew Nicholson gets a favorable Canadian welcome as he returns home for the first time as a professional. Nicholson learned that you can have a superb game even when just scoring 6 points off 3-of-8 shooting. 'Drew scrapped for everything and that will definitely earn teammates' respect.