Pistons 110, Magic 88
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—The Detroit Pistons were in danger of letting another weaker team stay close.
Chauncey Billups talked them out of it.
Spurred on by Billups’ pep talk, the Pistons put together a second-quarter rally and cruised to a 110-88 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.
The Pistons have won nine of 10, while Orlando has lost six straight on the road.
“We let Milwaukee stay in the game last night, and it looked like we were going to do that again tonight—we were turning the ball over and taking bad shots,” said Billups, who finished with 17 points and seven assists.
“I said in the huddle that we had to get them out of there, and we really picked it up. That’s what we need to do at this point of the season—get teams out of there.”
To make matters worse, Chris Webber was on the bench with a scratched left cornea after being accidentally poked in the eye by Howard in the first 90 seconds.
Hamilton and Lindsey Hunter both got hot, scoring seven points apiece as the Pistons outscored Orlando 31-16 in the second period. The Magic missed 13 of 17 shots and went just 8-for-16 from the free throw line.
“We were beaten in all facets of the game tonight,” Orlando coach Brian Hill said. “Once we came out of the first quarter, we didn’t play very well.”
Webber ended any doubts of an Orlando rally in the second half, overcoming a swollen, bloodshot eye to score 16 of his 18 points.
“Things were a little blurry at first, but once I hit a couple practice shots, I was OK,” he said, looking like the loser in a heavyweight title fight.
Darko Milicic, picked No. 2 overall by the Pistons in 2003 over Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, was loudly booed in his return to the Palace. Milicic was traded to Orlando last season after averaging fewer than two points in two-plus seasons in Detroit.
Milicic, who made his sixth start of the season, was taken out of the lopsided game with five minutes to play, a stark difference from his days as Detroit’s “Human Victory Cigar.” He finished with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.
“I don’t know if he was nervous, but that obviously wasn’t one of his best games,” Hill said.
Howard had 26 points and 15 rebounds for the Magic, but only two other players reached double figures.
“It feels bad when you get beat as bad we did tonight,” Howard said. “They beat us in every way possible, and we can’t let that happen. Hopefully, when we play these guys again Friday, we’ll come out with a much better attitude.”
Webber wasn’t Detroit’s only injury scare. Tayshaun Prince hurt his left knee after a collision with Grant Hill late in the second quarter, but came back after halftime. … The teams combined to shoot 54 free throws in the first half, two short of Detroit’s franchise record. “It was tough for anyone to get into a rhythm, the way the game was being called,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “When there are a lot of stops in the game, you usually don’t shoot as well as you want.” … Wallace and Hamilton’s technicals came for arguing the same first-quarter call, and moved them closer to the automatic suspension at 16. Wallace has 15 and Hamilton has 10.