The Detroit Pistons were coming off two tough road losses in Chicago and Miami. They headed up to Central Florida to face the Orlando Magic. Last time the Pistons were there, they gave up a 21-0 run in the third quarter in a 90-74 loss on Nov. 21. The first quarter was full of action.
Orlando guard JJ Redick came out firing. He made a 3 to put Orlando up 3-2, then he made another 3, then another 3, then another, he knocked down his first five 3-pointers and had 16 of the Magic’s first 18 points. But the Pistons weathered the storm behind strong play from Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, and rookie Kim English. Knight was knocking down pull up jumpers and getting to the rim aggressively. Monroe went to work on the low block against Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic. English played solid defense and made smart offenisve plays. Detroit went on a 9-2 run to go up 29-20 before Jameer Nelson scored five straight points to end the quarter. Detroit had a 29-25 lead after one.
The second quarter started with another Redick 3, followed by E’Twaun Moore free throws, and a Davis layup. Orlando was on a 12-0 run and it looked like the Pistons would falter again on the road. Instead the bench brigade led the Pistons on a 16-0 run. It started with a Charlie Villanueva 3-pointer, Will Bynum then had a layup, Austin Daye knocked down a 3, then Bynum had three pretty passes for layups.
He first found Kyle Singler for a layup, then bounced a pass to Villanueva on a fast break, and then he had a no look, behind his head pass to Villanueva for another fast break layup. It looked Magic Johnson-esque. Detroit had a 45-32 lead. Orlando fought back to within 47-40 on an Arron Afflalo jumper, but Daye answered with a jump shot, Knight and Monroe had some free throws, and Knight had a pull up jumper and the Pistons had a 54-44 lead at the break.
The third quarter saw the Magic creep their way back into it. After an English jumper to put the Pistons up 60-48, Orlando got into it behind Redick. Redick knocked down another 3 to make it 60-51, later he would knock down another 3 to make it a 64-58 Pistons lead, his eith and final 3 of the night. The eight 3’s were a career high in made 3-pointers for him. Redick would make a 2-pointer to make it 66-60. Davis then had a hook shot to bring the Magic to within 70-67. Knight then made a deep 3 for the 73-67 advantage. Orlando would go on an 8-2 run to tie it at 75 on a Moe Harkless alley-oop slam from Moore. Villanueva answered with a 3, Moore had a floater, and the Pistons were up 78-77 after three.
The fourth quarter was back-and-forth. It reminded me of the old “Rocky” movies when Rocky would get puched, then he’d get punched, and so on and so on. Davis had a layup to put Orlando up 79-78, Daye made a 3, Moore had a runner, Singler knocked down a 3, Davis answered with a jumper, and Moore had a layup to put the Magic up 85-84. Bynum would punch right back with a driving layup and an 86-85 lead for the Pistons.
Redick would answer with free throws, Monroe had a layup, Davis had a layup, Singler would answer with free throws as the punches and the counter-punches continued. Knight knocked down another 3 to put the Pistons up 93-89 with 6:15 to go. Bynum had a tough floating jumper to go over Vucevic for a 95-90 lead with 5:30 to go as it looked like the Pistons would pull away. Orlando would answer.
Moore hit a 3, Vucevic had a dunk, and then Moore was fouled by Monroe on a fast break layup. Moore would hit the free throw and the Pistons trailed 98-95 with 2:50 to go and it looked like the Pistons would let another game slip away.
On the ensuing possession, Villanueva missed a 3, Tayshaun Prince grabbed the board and kicked it to Knight who also missed a 3. Monroe grabbed a board and gave it back to Knight who knocked it down with confidence to tie the game at 98. Knight would then draw an offensive foul on Davis and then knocked down the go ahead 3-pointer off Bynum’s 11th assist. Monroe had a layup to make it 103-98 and after a Moore fadeaway, both teams missed on their possessions.
With 8.2 to play, Bynum was fouled but split the free throws to keep Orlando alive. Bynum would then foul Nelson on a 3-pointer. Nelson would make the first two but missed the third. Then a mad scramble ensued. Davis grabbed the board and went up with and was blocked by Monroe. Vucevic missed a tip, then Nelson missed a tip, and Vucevic missed one last tip and the buzzer sounded. The Pistons escaped with a 104-102 road win.
The Pistons kept pace with the Boston Celtics, who won against the Heat today 100-98 in OT. Detroit is still four games back of the eighth place Celtics with 38 games to play. Boston point guard Rajon Rondo is out for the season with a torn ACL so Detroit’s chances have improved.
Knight led the Pistons with a career high 31 points, Bynum had nine and 12 assists, Monroe had 17, and Villanueva had 12. Before the game, the Pistons announced that Rodney Stuckey would be inactive and said it was a “coach’s decision”. The Pistons are now 6-1 without Stuckey and with him being held out due to a “coach’s decision” one has to wonder whether the Pistons are ready to finally trade Stuckey or coach Lawrence Frank has just had enough of his erratic play.