Detroit — After two lopsided losses in Charlotte and Memphis, the Pistons finally had a close game at the end.
After leading for most of the game, the Pistons put it away in the final minutes in the fourth quarter, pushing to a 97-92 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena.
In a matchup of the teams with the two worst records in the league, the Pistons pulled out their third victory in the last five games, withstanding a late charge by the Magic down the stretch.
Hamidou Diallo and Trey Lyles led the way with a fourth-quarter surge. Diallo finished with 17 points and six rebounds and Lyles 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Saddiq Bey added 16 points and six rebounds for the Pistons (8-30)
Diallo finished the game with a flurry, scoring their last two field goals, including a tip-in with 1:50 left, giving the Pistons a three-point lead. Terence Ross (13 points) made a pair of free throws in the final minute for the Magic, but Cade Cunningham, who had 12 points and five assists, got his most important pass.
Cunningham drove to the basket and found Diallo cutting to the rim for an uncontested dunk, pushing the lead back to three with 42.4 seconds remaining. The Magic (7-33) had a chance to tie it in the final seconds, but Cole Anthony’s 3-point attempt was off the mark, and the Pistons added two free throws to put the victory away.
“We needed it. We came off two tough games,” Bey said. “We got more players back (from COVID protocols) and it was good to get the camaraderie, and they made a run down at the ending stretch, so we had to make sure that we came together to finish the game.”
Coach Dwane Casey said unlike in the two blowout losses, the Pistons were engaged early in the game, and that helped carry them through the ups and downs the rest of the way.
“Our defensive focus was there to start the game. We had a little bit more pep in our step, where we didn’t the last two games, where we got blown out by 30,” Casey said. “(Orlando) is in the same rebuilding process as we are, so it was good to see. I was more happy with the guys bouncing back, the way they bounced back with their spirit.
“They didn’t hang their head when we lost the lead, and we kept playing. The NBA is about adversity and how you face adversity. Some people can’t handle it. Some people are impatient with it. I thought we handled it, they made their run, we fought back, got control of the game and won the game.”
Lyles woke up a sleepy Pistons offense at the start of the fourth quarter, with eight straight points, including back-to-back dunks, a lay-in and a jumper — all in the first 2:28 of the period — for an 81-75 lead.
“Trey is a match-up problem for anybody because of his 3-point-shooting ability, and we needed that down stretch,” Casey said. “Isaiah (Stewart) still I don’t think is 100% with this health, so we had to watch his minutes. I thought Trey stepped in big time down the stretch.
“They only scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, and that was big for us also.”
Anthony (19 points, eight rebounds and six assists) made three of four free throws in the next stretch to stay close, and Saben Lee answered with a 3-pointer. The Magic responded with seven straight points, including a 3-pointer and a lay-in by Gary Harris (28 points and six rebounds).
Terrence Ross had a 3-pointer and two free throws and helped Orlando get within 91-90 with 2:40 remaining, ahead of Diallo’s surge in the final minutes.
The Pistons had a modest lead for most of the game, but in the third quarter, the Magic took their first lead, 68-67, after an 8-0 run that featured a 3-pointer by Anthony, a lay-in from Moritz Wagner and a 3-pointer from Chuma Okeke.
The Pistons answered with a drive from Bey and one of two free throws from Josh Jackson. Orlando had another answer, with a dunk from Wagner and a 3-pointer by Harris, for their biggest lead, 73-70, but Jackson tied it at 73 to end the third period.