Observations: Lee, Smith raise intrigue as Pistons beat Magic

It was a breakout game for rookie Saben Lee, who had a season-best…

Observations: Lee, Smith raise intrigue as Pistons beat Magic 1
Observations: Lee, Smith raise intrigue as Pistons beat Magic 2

Rod Beard
 
| The Detroit News

The Pistons ended their three-game losing streak with an impressive 105-93 victory over the Orlando Magic, splitting their two-game mini-series, after Sunday’s loss. It was a breakout game for rookie Saben Lee, who had a season-best 21 points, along with Dennis Smith Jr., who had 14 points.

The Pistons didn’t have to rely heavily on Jerami Grant, who had 17 points, because their defensive intensity moved up a notch and they kept the clamps on Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic.

Here are some observations from the win in Orlando:

►LEE’S NIGHT: Saben Lee had an encouraging outing against the Magic on Sunday, but he pushed that to new heights with his ability to get to the rim and to put pressure on the defense. He was 8-of-11 from the field and made all three of his 3-pointers, the first of his career. There was concern about how the Pistons would do without Delon Wright, but the debate now becomes how they will split the minutes between Lee and Dennis Smith Jr. Lee showed an ability to get in the paint and remain composed and to draw the defenders.

“He’s so quick,” Casey said. “A lot of rookies get sped up in an NBA game. He didn’t tonight and didn’t the other night. So that’s something that’s good to see, that he’s not sped up and doesn’t lose his concentration or get overwhelmed in the situation.”

►SMITH START: Dennis Smith Jr. got his second start in the absence of Delon Wright and he provided a nice spark in the opening minutes. Smith had seven of the Pistons’ first 14 points and he looked to be in a better rhythm in guiding the offense and finding his shot. Coach Dwane Casey said that they want to take a look at as many of the young players as possible and Smith still fits into that description. His best skill is his athleticism and quickness in getting to the rim and he showed it a little more Tuesday.

“I thought Dennis did an excellent job of passing ahead and letting the game come to him…he wasn’t forcing things,” Casey said. “It gets overshadowed by Saben but I thought Dennis did an excellent job of passing, and letting the game come to him. He wasn’t forcing things and did an excellent job defensively. He set the tone as far as the speed of the game and pushing the ball in transition.”

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►SVI STARTING: With Wayne Ellington resting, Svi Mykhailiuk got his first start of the season and looked good in filling that role. The domino effect is having more playing time at backup shooting guard, which meant some minutes for Frank Jackson as well. Mykhailiuk had six points, three rebounds and two assists in the first half and defensively, he was in the passing lanes and creating other opportunities. Mykhailiuk finished with nine points, with only one 3-pointer, which had been the strength of his game.

►DEFENSE FIRST: After the Magic duo of Evan Fournier and All-Star center Nikola Vucevic got loose in the first meeting on Sunday, the Pistons made a concerted effort to make them take tougher shots. In the first going, things weren’t as easy, and Plumlee was much closer in defending Vucevic on the perimeter. In the second half, Vucevic got going and looked more like an All-Star, with eight straight Orlando points in the third quarter. They held the Magic to 38% on field goals and 37% on 3-pointers.

“We executed better. We got connected to their shooting and Terence Ross and Fournier were 8-for-26,” Casey said. “They did a good job of staying connected, saw them off the screens and our big guys did a good job of stunting.”

►NEW LEADER: Lee’s 21 points led the team, the first time that Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey or Josh Jackson didn’t lead the team in scoring since Jan. 28 in the win over the Lakers at Little Caesars Arena. Lee also became the third second-round pick in the class of 2020 to score 20-plus points (along with Theo Maledon and Skylar Mays).

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

Our special thanks to:detroitnews.com

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