Pistons cruise to 4th straight win, 118-102 over Magic
Mar. 24, 2016
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — If the Detroit Pistons had played this well last season, they would have sailed into the playoffs without much trouble.
It's not that easy in 2016. The bar in the Eastern Conference is a little higher.
"It's a different year. You're not going to sneak in as a sub-.500 team like teams have been doing for years," Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said. "If we get in, we'll be getting in playing very good basketball, because there's no other way to do this."
Andre Drummond had 30 points and 14 rebounds, and the Pistons never trailed in their 118-102 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. Detroit has won four straight and still has four games remaining in a nine-game homestand.
The Pistons (38-34) are chasing their first postseason appearance since 2009, and they moved a game ahead of Chicago (36-34) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Detroit is also only a percentage point behind Indiana (37-33) for seventh.
Last season, Brooklyn made the postseason with a 38-44 record.
The Pistons have had their problems defensively of late, but they were so good on offense against the Magic that it almost didn't matter what happened at the other end. Detroit shot 54 percent from the field and 11 of 24 from 3-point range.
Tobias Harris scored 18 points for the Pistons against his former team, and Reggie Jackson added 16 points and nine assists.
Elfrid Payton had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Magic, who have lost five straight.
The Pistons were without guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Bullock, who were ill. Rookie Darrun Hilliard, a second-round draft pick, made the first start of his career and scored 11 points.
The Magic were short-handed as well. Nikola Vucevic has been out with a right groin strain.
Harris came to the Pistons in a February trade that sent Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to Orlando. Jennings was a non-factor in his return to the Palace, scoring only six points. Ilyasova scored eight.
Detroit jumped out to a 10-2 lead, and it was 22-8 after a 3-pointer by Marcus Morris. The Pistons led by as many as 18 in the first quarter before letting Orlando back in the game in the second. The Magic scored 36 points in that period, but Detroit led 66-57 at halftime.
"They pretty much had everything going that they wanted tonight, and we weren't doing anything to take it away," Payton said. "We needed to force them into tougher shots, but we weren't doing it."
A buzzer-beating jumper by Harris gave the Pistons a 96-87 lead after three, and Detroit began the final quarter with eight straight points, including a three-point play by Aron Baynes that made it 104-87.
Detroit's last four games were against Sacramento, Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Orlando. The Pistons won them all, but the schedule toughens now with matchups against Charlotte, Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Dallas to wrap up the homestand.
"We know what's on the line," Harris said. "I believe if we handle our business and play the best we can play every single game and play hard, the rest will handle itself and we'll be all right."
Drummond shot 14 of 20 from the field, and the sub-40 percent free throw shooter only had three attempts from the line. That's not what Orlando coach Scott Skiles wanted.
"Our guys knew that if Drummond got the ball inside, and it wasn't on a lob, we were supposed to foul him," Skiles said. "That was our plan — if he gets the ball down low, foul. Instead, we just let him finish at the rim all night."
Magic: Orlando shot only 40 percent from the field but had 22 second-chance points and 22 points off turnovers.
Pistons: Detroit had seven players score in double figures, including all five starters. ... Morris had 15 points and went 2 of 4 from 3-point range. He's 18 of 25 from beyond the arc over the past seven games.
Magic: At Miami on Friday night.
Pistons: Host Charlotte on Friday night.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister