AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons set the tone against the Orlando Magic on the game's opening possession. Brandon Jennings launched a long-range shot, and teammate Andre Drummond grabbed the offensive rebound.
It foreshadowed the rest of the night.
The Pistons dominated the Magic in the paint and cruised to a 103-87 win that was more lopsided than the final score indicates.
"We just have to play tougher and take more pride and ownership in what we need to do individually and collectively," Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. "I felt like we didn't do that at all tonight. We knew who they were in terms of the style of play they played, and it just seemed like it surprised us."
In the hours before tipoff, the Magic worried about the exact scenario that eventually unfolded. Playing without starting center Nik Vucevic, the Magic just couldn't stop the Detroit Pistons' tall and athletic frontcourt of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Drummond.
The Pistons collected 17 offensive rebounds and generated 20 second-chance points.
And Detroit compiled 44 points in the paint, while Orlando managed just 22.
"The rebounding was a big, big part of the first half for them," Magic swingman Arron Afflalo said. "That's a big team, man."
The Pistons (18-27) had been playing poorly. They'd lost four consecutive games entering Tuesday.
But for them, the Magic (12-34) were a cure-all.
"We just had to get a win," Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks said.
Drummond finished with 13 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, while Smith added 16 points on an uncharacteristically efficient 8-of-12 shooting night.
Monroe gathered 11 boards of his own.
"The great thing about this game is you know it's coming," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "There was warning, the way their team plays, whether we saw it on film, whether we talked about it. Now we've just got to get in a position of stopping them."
Vaughn attempted to compensate for the Pistons' size and for Vucevic's absence by juggling his starting lineup.
Vaughn scrapped his three-guard lineup. He started Jason Maxiell at power forward, shifted Tobias Harris to small forward and moved guard Victor Oladipo to the bench.
Maxiell, who spent his first eight seasons with the Pistons, was playing his first game at The Palace of Auburn Hills since he joined the Magic as a free agent last summer.
In 14 minutes, he collected one rebound and blocked one shot.
"It was tough," Maxiell said. "Going into halftime, they had 12 offensive rebounds and 16 second-chance points. So, we tried to come out in the third quarter and hit them first a little bit, which I felt we did in some ways. But they came back and hit us back."
That's when the game morphed into a rout.
The Pistons managed just two offensive boards in the quarter, but they fed off of five Magic turnovers and started to make some shots.
Orlando trailed 61-55 midway through the period, and then Detroit scored nine consecutive points.
"From that, we faded," Glen Davis said. "As a team, we have to understand that every possession counts. When we are close or we are in the range of being in the game, we can't make multiple mistakes. I think that's been our Achilles' heel this year: making multiple mistakes on both sides of the ball when it counts, when we need it.
"And that's what happened today."
With 5:04 remaining in the third, Vaughn subbed out Davis as part of the Magic's normal substitution pattern.
Davis, who is playing center in Vucevic's absence, walked off the court shaking his head.
Davis wasn't disagreeing with the decision to take him out.
He just didn't like what was happening on the court.
There was plenty to dislike.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun