AUBURN HILS, Mich. — For years, Glen Davis has been a thorn in the side of the Detroit Pistons.
Tuesday, Jason Maxiell played Big Baby right off the floor.
Davis missed 11 of his 15 first-half shots, picked up a technical early in the third quarter and was benched for most of the second half as the Pistons beat the Orlando Magic 105-90.
“Baby has been a difference-maker for them in a lot of games, and he’s had several big games against us,” said Pistons coach Lawrence Frank. “But we did a great job against him. Greg and Andre had him some of the time, but he was Max’s for most of the night and Max did an outstanding job. He was just great tonight.”
Maxiell almost had a double-double in the first quarter, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds, while Davis was 1-for-7 in the first 12 minutes.
“I knew I had a big matchup tonight, so my focus was all on defense,” Maxiell said. “I wanted to go out there at the start of the game and really set a tone.”
Detroit fell behind 22-11 early, as J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson were hitting shots from all over the Palace, but the Pistons finished the quarter on a 15-3 run.
“That was all defense,” Frank said. “We showed a lot of hustle and a lot of heart in that stretch, led by our bigs.”
The Pistons didn’t play that level of defense in the second quarter, outscoring Orlando 28-27 in a period that saw only one turnover between the teams.
“We were trading shots with them in the second, and that’s a very dangerous thing to do against Orlando,” Frank said. “I told them that we couldn’t do that in the second half.”
They didn’t. Detroit held Orlando to just 14 third-quarter points, with Maxiell frustrating Davis out of the game. After missing his first shot of the quarter, Davis was taken out of the game, then picked up a technical for arguing from the bench. Three teammates and an assistant coach surrounded Davis, trying to keep him from being ejected, but Magic coach Jacque Vaughn only played him briefly down the stretch.
“We knew that, if we started playing like we had in that first quarter stretch, we could dominate the game inside,” Maxiell said. “In the third quarter, we got back to that, and we started getting some easy baskets. That’s where we turned it around.”
Maxiell was still playing tough defense at that point, but he had turned the scoring over to his fellow big men. Drummond and Monroe combined for 16 points in the third, with both going coast-to-coast for dunks after stripping an Orlando player.
“When you know the big guys have your back, and then they start making plays like that, you know you are in good shape,” Will Bynum said. “They were the ones leading the defense tonight, and that’s how we won the game.”
The Pistons also had a decided advantage in aggression against the smaller Magic, posting a 16-6 edge in offensive rebounds and shooting 21 free throws to Orlando’s eight.
Frank said that those numbers might be a little misleading because of Orlando’s jump-shooting style, but the Magic had averaged 11.5 offensive rebounds and 17.5 free-throw attempts in two November wins over Detroit.
“Those aren’t areas where they are great historically, but we did do a nice job,” Frank said. “My biggest concern was that they were up on us in points in the paint at the half, but we cleaned that up in the second half.”
Orlando clearly didn’t play their best game of the season — even Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey were throwing down alley-oops — but it was a good win for the Pistons. The victory was their second in a row after the tough trip to London, and gives them some momentum with games ahead in Chicago and Miami.
“This is a game that can give us some positive momentum, especially after the win over Boston,” Frank said. “But right now, the only thing we are thinking about is Chicago. That’s a team that is playing really well right now, and we’ll have to be ready.”