Before the Orlando Magic took the court Friday night to take on the Detroit Pistons, they learned they would be without Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus. In the second quarter, Ryan Anderson suffered a “right mid foot sprain” on his first play and had to leave the game. He did not return, which left the Magic with just 8 players yet they put on a fantastic defensive performance in the second half and defeated the Detroit Pistons 104-91. Vince Carter had a season-high 25 points and 9 assists while Brandon Bass scored a career-high 27 points on 11-of-12 shooting. It was a great all-around effort from the Magic, especially in the second half and Head Coach Stan Van Gundy was all smiles as he left the court at the conclusion of the game. Van Gundy even said “I couldn’t be happier with our guys.”
Marcin Gortat started at Center while Chris Duhon started at point guard.
Orlando let the Pistons shoot lights out in the first half and gave up 55 points. Forward Tayshaun Prince led the charge with 14 points on just 6 shots. The Magic, led by Carter and Bass, shot the ball extremely well in the first half as well, so the Magic trailed by just one at the break. It was, however a different story in the second half. The Magic clamped down on the defensive end and held the Pistons to just 36 second half points, 18 in each quarter.
- The individual story of the game has to be the performance of Brandon Bass. He was nearly perfect from the field, scoring 27 points on 11-of-12 shooting. His jumper has looked great and has been falling all season and it looked better than ever Friday night. Bass was also unafraid to put the ball on the floor and got himself some easy shots.
- You’d expect a veteran like Vince Carter to step up when Orlando is in difficult situations like this and he did just that, playing his best game of the year. Before the game, we noted Carter would have to run the Magic offense and set up shots for himself and his teammates. Well, Carter scored 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting while dishing out 9 assists. He also grabbed 4 boards and had 3 steals. Carter played a game-high 41 minutes and although he looked gassed at the end (you could see him sitting in a fans’ seat as the last few seconds ticked away), he had great energy throughout the night.
- Quentin Richardson also played well, especially in the second half. He scored 15 points, but his biggest contribution probably came on the glass, where he grabbed 7 boards to help Orlando to a 35-22 rebounding advantage. Impressive stuff considering the best rebounder in the league didn’t play in the game.
- Malik Allen had to play 17 minutes and he gave the Magic valuable time, allowing Bass and Gortat to get some needed rest. He had 3 boards and scored 2 points on a tip-in.
- Van Gundy compared the game to Tuesday night’s game where the Magic played poorly on defense in the first before turning up the heat in the second half.
- Gortat, as he usually is, was very effective replacing Howard. He scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He even made a fantastic pass underneath Van Gundy called Gortat’s defense on pick-and-rolls was “maybe the best it’s been all year.”
- Before the game, I called Prince the Pistons player to watch before the game and he went off. Prince was nearly unguardable at times and scored 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting.
- With Howard and Pietrus already home, Van Gundy said Anderson would not play Saturday and called both Nelson and Redick “doubtful.”
- Former Magic wing Tracy McGrady was quiet again, scoring 4 points in 15 minutes.
Next Up: There’s no time to get healthy – the Magic will be in Milwaukee to play the Bucks Saturday night.
Final Thought: What an impressive victory considering the circumstances. Magic fans should be proud of their team.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, co-host of CB Sports Radio from 5-7 pm week days (1420sports.com) and ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).