This game saw some zany lineup combinations by two teams that were out of the playoff hunt, and it made for some ugly but generally entertaining basketball. The Magic played 12 of their 13 eligible players on Wednesday, the most of any game this season.
The Magic led by as many as 21 and scored 38 points in the first quarter against a Pistons team that looked largely apathetic for most of the first three quarters.
The starters would put on a show for the largest crowd in Magic history in the first, and they made their coach, Frank Vogel, proud:
“That was my hope for how the game would go,” said Vogel, “is that the starters would have a chance to respond from a couple of poor performances and play well for their last run this season.”
With 5 minutes left to go in the third, the Pistons would go on a 17-8 run that cut a 15-point Magic lead to just six leading into the final quarter.
In the fourth, it was suddenly a back and forth affair, as Magic coach Frank Vogel elected to leave his youth in the game for experience in this largely meaningless game. The Pistons’ largest lead all game was only four points, but they seemingly held it when it mattered, as they outscored the Magic 28-26 in the fourth quarter.
After Pistons’ center Boban Marjanovic converted an and-one, a pair of clutch jump shots by Magic point guard Elfrid Payton sealed the game for Orlando with under a minute remaining. Faced with a deficit and under a minute to play at home, the team was able to persevere in a spot where they have wilted so many times this year.
Payton said the win was helpful:
“Definitely for the momentum,” said Payton. “Like I said, just trying to carry us into the summer, continue to work and get ready for next season.”
This win and a Philadelphia 76ers loss meant that the Sixers jumped the Magic for fouth-best lottery odds, in what will be the next exciting turn in the season. Though the Sixers have better odds, things are far from guaranteed in the NBA’s random draft format.
With a 29-53 record, the Magic can close the book on the 2016-17 NBA season. A year that started with playoff hopes has ended with the team finishing 12 games back of the eighth seed. Though the bulk of the season was spent being hampered by those expectations, when the pressure loosened, the Magic certainly played some of their best basketball after the All-Star break.
With the draft looming and an offseason full of changes ahead, the Magic will hope to harness the best version of this team, tweak it, and amplify it.
|M. MorrisPF||DNP-COACH’S DECISION|
|A. BaynesC||DNP-COACH’S DECISION|
|B. UdrihPG||DNP-COACH’S DECISION|
|D. RudezSF||DNP-COACH’S DECISION|