AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Several minutes into Tuesday night's fourth quarter, Stan Van Gundy shouted something from the Orlando Magic bench onto The Palace of Auburn Hills court.
"Come on!" he yelled. "Get a stop!"
That didn't happen. Detroit Pistons guard Will Bynum soon drove through the defense for a layup.
That sequence stands out as a microcosm of the entire night. Playing without three injured starters — Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson — the Magic showed plenty of heart but nowhere near enough defense. The Pistons shot almost 67 percent from the field in the second half and ran away from the Magic 102-95.
"We don't play any defense," Van Gundy said afterward.
The Pistons shot nearly 57 percent overall, the second game in a row that the Magic gave up a season-worst field-goal percentage. It's no coincidence that Howard, the reigning three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, missed both games.
"We won't contend for nothing if we don't play defense," big man Glen Davis said.
That inability to defend doomed the Magic. They were tied with the Pistons 74-74 entering the fourth quarter but allowed Detroit to hit 12 of their 18 fourth-quarter shots.
The Pistons opened the period with seven consecutive points. Jonas Jerebko swished a 3-pointer. Greg Monroe made a driving layup on Daniel Orton. And Brandon Knight hit a jumper to put the Pistons ahead 81-74.
Detroit (20-33) never trailed again.
Six Pistons players scored in double figures, led by Monroe, the rapidly improving second-year center, who scored 22 points. Guard Ben Gordon added 18.
The Magic lost their fourth consecutive game. Their defeat, coupled with the Indiana Pacers' win, dropped the Magic to fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff standings and leaves the Magic needing to make up some ground in order to have homecourt advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Pistons won for the fourth time in their last five games.
Davis, who started at center in place of Howard, scored a career-high 31 points and also added a team-high 10 rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu, who started at power forward, scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Chris Duhon scored 13 points.
But the Magic were outrebounded 45 to 30 and were outscored in the paint 56 to 30.
"Obviously, Dwight is one of the elite paint protectors," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "But you play with the guys you have."
The Magic (32-22) didn't know for certain until close to tipoff that Howard and Nelson were going to sit out. Howard is suffering from back spasms, and Nelson has a sore left calf. They are not expected to miss much more time.
Anderson, who has a sprained ankle, will miss five to six more days, Van Gundy said.
Their absences forced a significant shuffling of the Magic lineup. Van Gundy started Duhon, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson, Turkoglu and Davis.
And it also forced Van Gundy to play some of his more inexperienced bench players, including third-string point guard Ish Smith, who scored five points, dished out three assists and had one turnover.
But all the Magic's efforts were canceled out by their problems on defense.
"We just kind of were a little relaxed on the defensive end," Jason Richardson said.
"We've got to do a better job. We know we're missing Dwight, who is our leader down there on that end of the floor. But there's going to be times where he might be in foul trouble the rest of the season or the playoffs, and we've got to learn to play without him."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times