Pistons drop Magic for 2nd straight win
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)
For the better part of the past few weeks, life inside the Detroit Pistons locker room has been a tenuous experience at best.
A recent rift between coach John Kuester and guard Rip Hamilton had resulted in Hamilton sitting out for seven straight games entering Monday, and a brand new alignment trudging its way into the second half of the schedule.
But after holding on for a one-point win over Phoenix on Saturday, the Pistons found even more traction with a 103-96 victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye each scored 20 points to lead the Pistons' attack. Detroit scored 26 points off 16 Orlando turnovers and shot 50 percent from 3-point range to earn its first victory of the season over the Magic.
''It's a different mentality that I have every game,'' McGrady said. ''Tonight it was just to be more aggressive. That's how I wanted to approach tonight. I was disappointed in how I played my last game. I felt good. I got us off to a great start and it just continued.''
Reserve Ryan Anderson had 21 points and Dwight Howard added 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Magic, who went 7 for 27 from 3-point range. There were also lapses on the defensive end that have become a recurring theme in recent Magic losses.
Hamilton didn't play again but it didn't matter as Detroit earned its second straight victory and snapped Orlando's three-game winning streak.
''My whole focus has been preparing for the next game and that's all you can do,'' Kuester said. ''And in preparing for the next game you have to make tough decisions. ... You realize that all of these guys on any given night are going to give us something, and that's the main focus.''
The Pistons led by as many as 14 before a 10-4 Magic run to open the fourth quarter cut the lead to 79-75 with 8:59 to play. Quentin Richardson had a pair of 3s during the surge.
But Detroit responded with an 11-3 run to push its cushion back to 90-78 at the 6:19 mark. Stuckey also came up with a key play down the stretch, drawing a foul on Jameer Nelson and hitting two free throws to make it 97-90 with 1:24 left.
McGrady had an up-and-down tenure in Orlando from 2000-04, but was known for his occasional ability to score at will. His skills have slowly diminished in the six years since his departure, but the 31-year-old showed flashes of his former self Monday.
He scored 17 points in the first half, including 14 in the first quarter, to help the Pistons take a 56-46 advantage into halftime.
Howard only had two baskets in the fourth quarter, and both of those came via offensive rebounds. He appeared noticeably frustrated at times in the final quarter as his teammates struggled to find him in the post and his agitation was apparent afterward as well.
''Guys just have to want to play, that's it,'' Howard said. ''Either we get it together or we're just going to be a playoff team that doesn't win a championship. We've just got to play. Everybody knows what to do. We're professional athletes. We know what to do, so it's on us.''
The Magic never led in the second half and coach Stan Van Gundy tried different lineups, including inserting reserve Richardson with both Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson struggling (they finished a combined 5 of 19 from the field).
Van Gundy said the missing ingredient, though, was a lack of focus and sustained defensive intensity. He also alluded to possibly changing up his eight-man rotation moving forward.
''We have to get a lot better defensively, which is my responsibility,'' he said. ''I played Quentin tonight and maybe I'll have to play him more, or maybe we will have to play other people if these guys won't commit to it. We've just got to defend a lot better than we did tonight.''
NOTES: The Pistons committed just two turnovers in the first half and six for the game. ... Howard was named NBA Eastern Conference player of the week on Monday, his third such honor of the season. ... Anderson has now scored in double figures for 10 straight games.