Curtis: The Pistons showed toughness and togetherness in controversial win over Magic

Detroit News

Detroit — There were a few things lost within the pandemonium of Wednesday’s altercation between the Pistons and Orlando Magic.

The Pistons accomplished a couple of rare feats in the midst of adversity, lack of roster depth and emotional turmoil.

They won a game, which had only been done eight times over the last two months of the season before Wednesday. They played four quarters of inspired and consistent basketball, which had been their Achilles Heel since their overtime triumph at Charlotte.

Lastly, they showed mental and physical toughness and a willingness to defend — on and off the court.

Every day on social media, there are a few teams throughout the NBA that dominate the news cycle. On Tuesday, Luka Doncic was the topic of nearly every basketball fan’s timeline when he dropped a 60-21-10 triple-double on the New York Knicks.

The Pistons and Magic, two young and rebuilding teams sitting toward the bottom of the league’s standings, stole the show on Wednesday night. However, it wasn’t because of basketball.

With mere seconds until halftime, former Michigan Wolverine Mo Wagner pushed Killian Hayes into the Pistons bench, which brought the game to a screeching halt.

Hamidou Diallo, who had his own skirmish with Wagner earlier in the quarter, rushed to his point guard’s aid and shoved Wagner directly into the arms of Isaiah Stewart. As a knee-jerk reaction, Hayes took it upon himself to retaliate and threw a forearm to the back of Wagner’s head. Wagner, Hayes and Diallo were ejected, leaving the Pistons without two key rotation players.

Whether it was right or wrong is for the league to decide, but it was refreshing to see the Pistons, who’ve gone through more than their fair share of ups and downs, display the tenacity that the franchise has long missed since the Bad Boys and Goin’ to Work Days.

To make matters worse, the remaining players from the Magic’s bench, along with their coaches rushed to the scene of the incident, which left Pistons coach Dwane Casey upset and looking for answers.

“My understanding, when you leave the bench, and you go down and get in a fray like that, that’s how bad things start. Really bad things,” Casey said. “It could’ve been worse. I didn’t feel like they were de-escalating the situation.”

Almost minutes after the altercation occurred, videos surfaced across social media highlighting the scuffle, but there was hardly any mention of the Pistons’ mental fortitute to overcome losing their starting point guard, in absence of Cade Cunningham, along with a re-energized Diallo.

The Pistons’ overwhelmingly won Wednesday’s game due to the spectacular play of their bench, which scored 78 points, the second-most bench points in franchise history. Alec Burks (32 points) and Saddiq Bey (28 points) took turns launching 3-pointers that would splash into the rim. The two combined for 60 points, the most by a duo off the bench in franchise history.

Bey didn’t shy away from addressing the altercation, but he also mentioned his team’s ability to have a short memory and lock back in to the task at hand, which was finishing the game strong.

“We’re competitors,” Bey said after the game. “I like how Hami and Killian responded. I like how Hami had Killian’s back. (The Magic) had their guys’ back so we’re going to have our guys’ back. For us, it was good for us to try to refocus after that and try to come together because we had the momentum.

“We wanted to make sure that after all that happened we could refocus because we kind of had that (situation) last year, as well. It was important for us to regroup, but everybody in the locker room, there was a lot of morale because we had each other’s back. It was great to see.”

Whether the world realized it or not, the Pistons took a step forward on Wednesday. The ability to rebound from a colossal 14-point collapse to the LA Clippers on Monday showed maturity for Detroit’s young roster.

It was just overshadowed by an unfortunate moment. But that moment could be pivotal in bringing life back to the Pistons’ season.

Pistons at Bulls

Tipoff: 8 Friday, United Center, Chicago

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons (8-29) are coming off one of their best wins of the season, a 20-point win over the Orlando Magic. They look to start their five-game road trip on a good note against the Bulls (15-19), who beat the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime on Wednesday.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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