ORLANDO --Brandon Knight took another big step toward becoming the leader of the Detroit Pistons Sunday night, carrying them down the stretch in a short-handed, 104-102, victory over the Orlando Magic.
Knight, a second-year point guard from Kentucky, scored a career-high 31 points and hit a trio of 3-pointers in the final six minutes, pulling his Pistons to a much needed victory.
The Pistons (17-27) snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Magic (14-29) for the second time in the last six days, now setting their sights on reaching the playoffs.
"Brandon was our savior tonight," said veteran Tayshaun Prince. "We needed him, and a lot of guys, to step up."
The Pistons were without veteran guard Rodney Stuckey, who was put on the inactive list before the game as a disciplinary measure by coach Lawrence Frank.
J.J. Redick matched his career high with 31 points for the Magic - hitting eight of 11 3-pointers - but he struggled down the stretch when Knight stepped up his game.
The Magic missed a chance to tie in the closing seconds after Jameer Nelson missed a free throw with six seconds remaining. In a mad scramble for the ensuing rebound, Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic and Nelson all missed potential tip-ins. Pistons center Greg Monroe blocked the Davis tip-shot.
Monroe finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots. Reserve Charlie Villanueva had 12 points for Detroit.
Nelson had 18 points and eight assists. Magic reserve guard E'Twaun Moore also had 18 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter to lead the Magic rally.
It was Knight, though, who dominated down the stretch with his 3-point flurry.
Knight gave the Pistons a 93-89 lead with his third 3-pointer of the game. He tied the game at 98 with 2:20 remaining. And he gave the Pistons a 101-98 lead with his fifth 3-pointer with 1:48 left.
Monroe added another basket and Will Bynum a free throw with 8.2 seconds remaining for a 104-100 lead. Bynum fouled Nelson on a 3-point shot, sending him to the line for three. Nelson made the first two, but missed his third.
"A lot of this came from my teammates creating for me," Knight said. "But I'm getting more confidence the more I play. I'm feeling pretty comfortable out there, and my teammates are getting more confident in me to make the plays. When I was open, I didn't hesitate."
Davis, who had 17 points, received a technical foul in the third period - his third consecutive game with a technical - and it sparked him after a poor first half. He had 10 points in the third quarter, helping the Magic cut a 13-point deficit to one going into the final quarter.
The Pistons led 54-44 at intermission, overcoming a great start from Redick, who hit all five of his 3-point shots in the first quarter. He hit his sixth 3-pointer just 13 seconds into the second quarter. Redick had 19 of the Magic's first 28 points and scored 21 points in the first half.
He had only two points in the fourth quarter, though, and badly missed a 3-pointer with 10.9 seconds left that could have tied the game. He also committed a costly turnover with 1:41 remaining.
The Magic led 32-29 early in the second quarter, but when Redick cooled in the first half, the Pistons went on a 16-0 run. Knight had 13 points before intermission.
The Magic were sloppy with the ball early, committing 11 turnovers before the break. Redick shot well, but he also had five turnovers.
NOTES: The Pistons keep talking about improvement from last season, but they went into Sunday night with the same record (16-27) as they had a year ago after 43 games. The Magic, conversely, have fallen dramatically from a year ago. They were 27-15 instead of the 14-28 record they took into Sunday night. ... Redick was taking some ribbing about spending an off-night at a Justin Bieber concert in Orlando Friday night. He explained it like a lot of married guys do. "A happy wife is a happy life," he said, explaining that it was his wife's idea that they go. ... The Magic not only are getting hammered by the good teams this season, but the bad teams keep beating them, too. They went into Sunday having lost nine consecutive games to teams with losing records. They also are 3-14 this season in games decided by six points or less. ... The Pistons keep banging the drum for rookie center Andre Drummond, who is averaging 7.5 points and 7.4 rebounds in 20.1 minutes. His rebound total comes out to 17.7 rebounds per 48 minutes, third most for an NBA rookie since 1985, trailing only Roy Tarpley (Dallas) and Charles Oakley (Chicago).