Without Howard, Magic ease past Pistons 119-89
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said his team showed probably its most toughness of the season in grinding out a win against Philadelphia last week to end a five-game losing streak.
The Magic may not have had to display that same late-game vigor in their victory over Detroit on Monday night, but they certainly left their coach with plenty more to marvel at.
All five Orlando starters reached double figures in its first win this season over a Detroit team that normally can be counted on to play them tough.
Not on this night, though.
"Everybody's on one page and I've never felt like we've been on such a page," Davis said. "We've been a good team the whole year, but I think these last couple of games and especially the Philly game we've been on the same page. Defensively. Energy-wise. Everybody's been trying to read the same book."
The Magic also were playing without backup point guard Chris Duhon, who was suspended for the game for conduct detrimental to the team. It didn't matter, though, as their energy and falling shots overwhelmed a Detroit team that was playing its fourth game in five nights.
"There are going to be ups and downs with nine games to go. But I like the level we've played at the last two games and hopefully it will continue," Van Gundy said.
Tayshaun Prince led Detroit with 21 points and eight rebounds, and Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Collectively, though, it made little more than a dent against a Magic club that shot 53 percent (42 for 80) from the field and 54 percent (15 for 28) from the 3-point line.
The Pistons lost their third straight game since a three-game winning streak. They conclude their four-game road trip at Charlotte on Thursday.
"It's very embarrassing," Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. "I think it's everything. (Being) mentally (and) physically, prepared to compete in an NBA game...But we've got to make a decision as a group, how we want to go forward. This is where character's revealed."
Said Villanueva: "We put that 4-20 start behind us and we have been playing good basketball since then. The past two games we have let our guard down and kind of forgotten what got us to this point."
With both Howard and Hedo Turkoglu (out for the regular-season with a facial fracture) missing from the starting lineup, Van Gundy inserted Davis and Redick into the lineup.
Neither player disappointed early, with Redick connecting from the outside and scoring eight first-quarter points, and Davis reaching double-double status just minutes into the second period.
Davis in particular, who has seen his minutes increase during Howard's recent injury, said he is trying to make the most of his extra time on the floor. He is averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds over his past five games
"I feel like I'm more frantic when I'm out there (playing) for 20 minutes, it's like `you got to do something,'" Davis said. "But when you're out there longer you get a rhythm, you get a flow and that's just my role right now. But when it changes, I'll just go out for 20 minutes and try to do the best I can."
Orlando also got an instant boost from the return of Ryan Anderson, who had missed the three previous games with a sprained right ankle. He finished with 14 points.
Even seldom-used point guard Ish Smith got into the act, making the most of his minutes playing in place of Duhon. Smith had five of his seven assists in just six minutes of action.
The Magic led by as many as 23 in the first half and the lead ballooned above 30 early in the third quarter.
It got almost comical how easily the ball was falling through the net for the Magic, with Richardson getting a high and very favorable bounce on a rushed 3-pointer in the second half.
The only sore spot was reserve forward Earl Clark getting ejected with 7.5 seconds to play in the game by referee Scott Foster for arguing a foul.
The blowout win might have been against a tired Pistons' team, but with each of their remaining games holding potential playoff seeding implications, the Magic will take wins where they can get them.
They began the night in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, trailing division mate Atlanta.
"I think obviously missing Dwight is a big piece and it just makes us have to play that much harder to get those hustle points and get those rebounds," Anderson said. "I think we did that...We know how good of a team we are and we've gone through a lot as a group. I think ultimately guys, everybody's playing hard...We're just really having each other's backs and working hard for each other."
Notes: The Magic improved to 22-4 this season when scoring at least 100 points. ... Redick made his 14th start this season. ... Pistons G Rodney Stuckey banged his knee at the end of the first half and did not return. ... Van Gundy said that the NBA office got back to the team about footage they sent showing what they believed was Dallas C Brendan Haywood punching Howard in the back while in the post during a recent game. Officials didn't find intentional malice on Haywood's part though. "They're saying that his fist was closed, but I guess they see it as a normal basketball play," Van Gundy said. "But I understand the difficulty for officials. There's so much contact and guys are so big and strong."
Updated April 9, 2012