Pistons let lead slip away but recover to top Magic
DETROIT — Stan Van Gundy expressed disgust with Detroit’s second-half performance. Imagine how the Pistons coach would have felt if his team had lost.
The Pistons led by 24 points with seven minutes remaining, then nearly gave it away before escaping with a 114-110 win over the undermanned Orlando Magic on Sunday at Little Caesars Arena.
Orlando made it interesting by reeling off 19 straight points. Van Gundy’s exasperation extended beyond the Magic’s comeback.
“We didn’t try at all in the second half,” he grumbled. “I’m not happy with that at all.”
The Pistons (17-13) have won three straight after a seven-game losing streak. Van Gundy found Orlando’s 67-point second half in which it shot 59 percent more noteworthy.
“I understand the sentiment that it’s all about winning and we got the win. That’s not what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s about what you bring to the game — how you play, the effort you bring, the unselfishness you bring — and the results take care of themselves.”
Reggie Bullock scored a career-high 20 points to lead the Pistons’ offense. Bullock, who was inserted into the starting lineup four games ago, made 8 of 10 shots from the field. His previous scoring high was 17 points last season, also against the Magic.
Tobias Harris, Reggie Jackson and Anthony Tolliver scored 17 points apiece for the Pistons, who have won three straight after a seven-game losing streak.
Andre Drummond contributed 12 points for the Pistons (17-13), who tied their franchise high with 17 3-pointers. They connected on half of their 34 attempts.
The Magic were 17 of 33 from long range, draining 11 after halftime.
“I don’t really feel like our defensive intensity was very good the whole game,” Tolliver said. “I think they missed some easy shots in the first half.
“In the second half, they starting hitting some. Even though we were shooting really well, we definitely relaxed way too much and allowed them to get a little confidence going down the stretch.”
Detroit starting shooting guard Avery Bradley missed his second consecutive game with a right adductor strain.
Forward Mario Hezonja scored a career-high 28 points for Orlando, which has dropped five straight. Nikola Vucevic supplied 24 points and 14 rebounds, and Jonathon Simmons had 23 points for the Magic (11-20).
“We made shots, that’s the biggest thing, and we didn’t quit the game,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “We played with more pace down the stretch as well. We got energized when we were trying to take back the game.”
Both of Orlando’s leading scorers missed the game. Forward Aaron Gordon was sidelined because of a calf strain and guard Evan Fournier sat out for the fifth consecutive game with a right ankle sprain.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be perfect out there,” Vogel said. “We didn’t guard well enough early in the game, but the guys who were out there continued to play and we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
The Pistons raced to a 60-43 halftime lead behind Harris and Bullock, who combined for 26 points. Detroit scored 36 first-quarter points, equaling its season high for that quarter.
Vucevic notched a double-double by halftime, posting 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Pistons led by 19 early in the third quarter. Orlando closed within 11 on four occasions before the Pistons stretched the lead once again with a 14-3 spurt.
Detroit carried a 96-79 lead into the fourth quarter. The Pistons led 105-81 with seven minutes remaining when the Magic suddenly stormed back. When Simmons made a layup with 2:40 left, Detroit’s lead was down to five at 105-100.
Harris broke the Pistons’ scoring drought with 1:21 remaining on a layup. The Magic never got closer than five points until Hezonja’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
NOTES: Orlando rookie PF Jonathan Isaac returned after missing 17 games because of a sprained right ankle. “He can miss two months and go out there and use his length defensively or contain and block and contest shots,” coach Frank Vogel said. Isaac had one point in 16 minutes. ... Detroit C Andre Drummond, the league’s leading rebounder, grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 27 of the team’s 30 games. He had just six on Sunday. ... Magic C Bismack Biyombo had his 700th career block. ... The Magic have used 12 different lineups this season. ... Orlando took three of four from Detroit last season. The teams meet again Dec. 28 and March 2 in Orlando.