Orlando, Fla. — In the midst of their five-game skid, another double-digit deficit looked like it would be too much to overcome.
After trailing by 15 in the first quarter, the Pistons erased the margin and took a 10-point lead in the second quarter, only to see that lead evaporate. When the they fell into an 11-point deficit in the third quarter, they looked to be sunk but again overcame the deficit.
The Pistons made it a two-for-one special, rallying in the fourth quarter behind the bench and putting it away with the starters in a 103-96 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at Amway Center.
The loss ends the Pistons’ five-game skid and puts them back at .500, after a 4-0 start to the season.
Andre Drummond had 23 points and 19 rebounds, Blake Griffin had 20 points and five rebounds, and Reggie Jackson added 15 points and four assists for the Pistons (5-5), who outrebounded the Magic, 50-40.
The Magic (4-7) led 78-69 at the 3:03 mark of the third quarter, but the starters made a push, with seven points by Griffin, including a vicious dunk. Ish Smith had a steal and lay-in at the buzzer, cutting the lead to two heading into the final period.
Smith had another floater and Stanley Johnson (13 points, six rebounds) hit a pair of 3-pointers and Langston Galloway (12 points) added two more, part of a 14-4 spurt to start the fourth quarter.
The Magic answered with a 9-2 run, including seven points by Evan Fournier (27 points) and a highlight-reel dunk by Aaron Gordon (15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists) but the Pistons didn’t fold.
Griffin made two free throws, Glenn Robinson III hit a lay-in and Jackson added a 3-pointer for the decisive run, giving the Pistons a 101-93 lead with 1:09 left.
Here are some other observations from Wednesday’s win:
1. Johnson was effective in his stint in the first half, notching seven points, four rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes. He looked comfortable handling the ball and with the second group, was able to run in transition and hit a 3-pointer and added a coast-to-coast drive and a reverse lay-up. Watching Johnson’s move to the reserve group is interesting, as he struggled to hit shots and be efficient or effective with the starters. If he’s able to establish any comfort, he could find a more comfortable role as a defender and spark on the second group.
2. Coach Dwane Casey lamented the production of the reserves in the loss to the Heat. They bounced back Wednesday, with 35 points, and sparked a couple runs that got them back in the game in each half. They started 7-of-13 from the field and 3-of-5 on 3-pointers in the first half and ignited a 13-2 run that helped regain the lead early in the fourth quarter. They were composed and with an aggressive spark by Johnson, they played with poise.
3. Drummond was efficient: 8-of-10 in first half and finished 10-of-16 from the floor, but finished just short of his fifth 20-20 game in 10 games this season. He’s generally had good games against the Magic but he had his way inside — and even added an off-balance 3-pointer, his second make from beyond the arc this season.
4. Reggie Bullock returned after missing the last two games because of an ankle sprain and was 0-for-6 from the field, including two misses on 3-pointers. He hasn’t found the mark yet this season but will continue in a starting role.
5. Jackson continues to impress down the stretch, with seven points in another good fourth quarter. He had the decisive 3-pointer and added a dunk with 24.9 seconds left to push the lead to 10. He’s been working with Griffin to establish some better balance between them and it’s showing in the last two games.