In its first game without Delon Wright for the next couple weeks, the Detroit Pistons missed his steadying presence.
Dennis Smith, Jr. started in his place and struggled mightily outside of a couple perimeter shots sunk in a 30-second burst. His signature athleticism continues to be more theoretical than functional, which isn’t terribly surprising given some injuries. He may work his way into game shape and show off what made him a lottery pick, but it was noticeably absent tonight.
Enter Saben Lee.
Lee’s quickness gave the Magic defense fits and generated myriad great opportunities for his teammates. He ended the game with 12 points, four rebounds, five assists, and three steals while finishing with a team-best +3 plus-minus. In this case, the box score very accurately represents the two-way player’s huge impact on the game.
Oh, and he again tried to end a career at the rim:
Unfortunately, Lee’s outstanding effort wasn’t enough for the Pistons to ever fully recover from a couple of first half deficits.
Orlando built their lead on the hot shooting of Evan Fournier (who finished with 29 points on 15 shots) and noted Pistons killer Terrence Ross, but they won the game because of All Star-hopeful Nikola Vucevic.
Vucevic scored 37 points, grabbed 11 points, and did so without much resistance. That’s not necessarily a knock on Detroit’s defense on him—he just had one of those nights where there’s nothing you can really do against him.
Detroit couldn’t come close to matching Vucevic’s performance.
Jerami Grant scored 24 points on good efficiency and was his usual solid self. Josh Jackson added 17, but he did so while attempting 23 shots. Being thrust into a larger creation role, Jackson pressed way too much and got himself stuck in a lot of traffic without a plan for getting out. A more prominent offensive role will need to happen for Jackson during Wright’s absence, but the first game results were not there.
The loss to the Magic was a huge reminder of just how difficult things can be for the Pistons when shots aren’t falling and they lack a primary creator. Dwane Casey and company will need to manufacture more offense for its younger roster members. Detroit will see Orlando again on Tuesday which will be a good test for whether the correct adjustments can be made.