It happened four straight games in last year’s playoffs, and four in the regular season before that. Detroit also handily won their first of four contests this year.
On Monday, Lewis scored 16 points—including the game-winner as time expired—and the Magic beat Detroit 102-100.
“We took them to the end tonight—lets you know that when we come to play our hardest and play at the defensive end we can be one of those good teams too,” said Lewis, the longtime Seattle Supersonics star who signed with Orlando in the offseason.
Chauncey Billups nearly forced overtime with a 32-foot 3-pointer that made it 100-all, but Orlando had 3.6 seconds left.
“I was thinking, ‘How in the world did he make that?”’ Howard said. “I was expecting him to miss it, but they call him ‘Big Shot Chauncey.”’
Lewis took the inbound pass from Turkoglu, dribbled and threw up the shot with time expiring. A replay confirmed the bucket, and Orlando’s emotional win.
Detroit was 18-0 when scoring at least 100 points this season, and lost its third straight for the first time this year.
“When you have younger teams and they are looking to try and climb that mountain and get to the top, they have to go through certain people,” Billups said. “We are one of those teams. We have been for a long time and we are going to be there for a long time.”
Wallace nearly tied the game at 100 with 36 seconds left, but his 27-foot 3-pointer rimmed in and then out.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t surprised to see Billups’ bucket go. He’s had his own problems with Detroit, when the Pistons came from behind to upend Van Gundy’s Miami Heat in the 2005 conference championship.
“I have a little bit of history with that team,” Van Gundy said. “When Chauncey Billups raises up to shoot the ball late in the game, I know it’s going to go in. You just have to stop him from shooting the ball—that’s the only way.”
The Pistons tried to muscle Orlando—particularly Howard. Detroit committed 28 fouls to Orlando’s 21, but Turkoglu and company made just enough from the free throw line to seal the win. The forward hit 10-of-12, including 5-of-6 in the fourth quarter, and Howard hit 9-of-15. The Pistons fouled him on nearly every possession in the second half after the All-Star hit 6-of-8 for 15 points in the first two quarters.
“One of the things Chauncey said is that I’m going to be shooting a whole bunch of free throws in the second half, so be ready,” Howard said. “So I kind of got my mind ready for getting fouled. It wasn’t frustrating—they’re a very physical team and we respect them.”
The Magic lacked early energy, but finished the second quarter on an 11-4 run to take a 55-49 halftime lead. Turkoglu and Howard keyed the momentum with a 3-pointer and two baskets by Howard. He hit a 9-foot hook, then Turkoglu found him with a sharp inside feed for a dunk.
Detroit committed an uncharacteristic 10 first-half turnovers, just one less than their NBA-best average of 11. But the Pistons had only one in the second half, compared with Orlando’s 14 on the game.
“There are a few things we didn’t do well from a standpoint of execution at times, but we’ll clean those things up,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “It’s a long season and we’re finding some things out about all of our guys, which is good.”
The teams combined for three turnovers in one 8-second stretch alone. After Hamilton’s basket, Turkoglu lost the ball to Wallace. However, Arroyo stole Wallace’s pass, and Wallace then stole Arroyo’s, and the Magic guard tumbled into the first row chasing it off a tip.
Jason Maxiell had 11 points and seven rebounds for Detroit, including two impressive dunks and a steal early in the fourth quarter.
Magic G Jameer Nelson missed his second straight game (strained tendon, right foot). … The teams play again Friday at Detroit, after the Pistons conclude their three-game road trip Wednesday at Philadelphia and Orlando travels to Memphis. … Orlando C Tony Battie, out this season after undergoing shoulder surgery, spoke in brief homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before the game.