The atmosphere inside the Palace of Auburn Hills was never anything other than calm and confident, as Detroit Pistons faced off against the Orlando Magic Wednesday night - even when time was running down in the fourth quarter and the Magic had chopped Detroit’s lead to just two.
It was the smallest lead the Pistons had held since tip off, as Orlando had trailed most of the game by a good 10 points - often more. A Pistons’ lead that was once 21 was cut to just two, with under seven minutes remaining in the game.
Sounds like a rather normal game at the home of the Pistons, but the contest between the Orlando Magic (15-30) and Detroit Pistons (17-26) ended up being a historic night. Brandon Jennings drained an ever-important triple in a two-minute period of a strong Pistons effort, gaining back some of the large lead and securing a 128-118 win. That was just one of the key moments of Jennings’ game Wednesday night; in fact, those three points were only three of 24, on top of his 21 assists throughout the night - the first 20-point & 20-assist game in the NBA since Steve Nash in 2009, and the first for the Pistons since Isiah Thomas, way back in 1985.
Jennings’ 20-20 night helped a great deal in propelling Detroit to their 17th win of the 2014-15 season, with Jennings shooting for a fair amount of the points they earned last night; the 128 points scored by the Pistons Wednesday night is the highest they have shot in a game since March 18, 2008, a 136-120 win over the Denver Nuggets. Brandon Jennings earned a few more points by beating Orlando’s pick-and-roll defense multiple times for three layups in less than a minute. His 21 assists on the night was also a career high.
In the first half of the game, Jennings had nine of his 24 points and 11 of his 21 assists (exactly half, ironically) already to his name. Greg Monroe had 20 points and seven rebounds in the first half, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit. Andre Drummond joined Orlando’s forward-center Nikola Vucevic in scoring 26 points, tying each other for the highest scorer in the game.
It seemed to be the opening quarter of the game that saw the Magic’s chance at a second consecutive victory over the Pistons disappearing already. The outright attack from the Pistons, shooting 58.3 percent, 50 percent from three-point range, earned them a 35-24 lead as the first came to an end.
Victor Oladipo added 23 points for the Magic on Wednesday night, and he played a large role in an Orlando Magic stretch at the end of the second quarter, pulling his team within six when the buzzer went off - right about when Kyle Singler shot one of his five three-pointers of the night, draining it at the buzzer, giving his team a 65-48 lead going into the half. Detroit had a 7-0 run to close out the first half, with Kyle Singler making 4 of 5 triple attempts, including the impressive one at the buzzer.
The beginning of the second half saw Detroit’s lead peak for the game at 21 points. Andre Drummond slammed an alley-oop that was perfectly sent his way by Jennings, only a minute and a half into the third quarter and the second half, the point of that 21-point lead that was their largest of the night. The Magic suddenly answered with five straight, but they could not pull close enough yet another time; the third finished with Orlando trailing Detroit, 96-84.
The fourth quarter began, and another Orlando Magic run saw them get as close to a win as two points, but the Detroit Pistons stayed strong and finished it out, winning by double digits (10). It’s remarkable when Detroit finishes out games like this, earning the win even if the opposing team came as close as they did, as the team has been notorious for handing away wins (5-23 start to 2014-15 saw this happen plenty) - which easily could have happened yet again Wednesday night. Pistons’ coach Stan Van Gundy had this to say about his team closing out basketball games (per the Detroit Free Press): "To come back with a double-digit victory was a good step forward. We have become a team that is starting to close games pretty well."
The Orlando Magic’s loss extended their losing streak to three games, even though they shot 49.5 percent in Wednesday evening’s game at the Palace.
Detroit has played some impressive basketball lately; the Pistons have won 12 of their last 15, after that disappointing 5-23 start to the season. The team will hit the court next in Milwaukee, facing off against the Bucks (21-20) on Saturday, January 24.