The Detroit Pistons played three close quarters against the Orlando Magic before blowing it in the 4th. Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Of late, the Pistons have held tight with good teams but fall apart like clockwork in the 4th quarter, committing bonehead turnovers, missing open shots and being unable to get a stop when they need one.
One sequence in particular was an apt summary of the Pistons' 4th-quarter woes this season. After a Jalen Duren putback pulled Detroit within six with just over three minutes left to play, the Pistons turned it over on their next possession for a layup, then Cade Cunningham missed two free throws and the Magic sealed the game.
The Pistons are now 0-2 against the Magic this season and we have been denied the rivalry we were promised.
Detroit Pistons vs. Orlando Magic: The rivalry that wasn't
These two teams split their four meetings last season and all of them were heated.
The two teams appeared to be equally matched, on the same timeline and fans argued about which would win more games this season. The Magic made a mini-leap last year, winning 34 games, twice as many as the Pistons, but Detroit was getting their best player back, hired a big name coach and many thought these would be the best two young teams in the Eastern Conference this season.
The Pistons had other plans.
While the Magic continued their ascent, putting themselves in position to at least make the Play-in Tournament this season, the Pistons have gotten even worse, once again at the bottom of the conference with no quick fix in sight.
So why is one team thriving while the other continues to struggle? Both teams are young and the Magic have a lower average age than the Pistons.
Both teams have had injuries to key players and are built around guys in their early 20's.
Looking at the numbers, the thing that immediately stands out is that Orlando has one of the best defenses in the league, allowing just 110.6 points per game, while the Pistons are near the bottom, allowing nearly 12 points more per contest.
The Pistons paid lip service to building around defense, but have centers who can't protect the rim and wings who can't defend the perimeter. Their big offseason addition outside of the draft was Joe Harris, a guy who couldn't guard me and I currently have a broken toe.
Meanwhile, the Magic actually did it, drafting more two-way players and adding guys who at least care about playing defense, while the Pistons did not.
So if you want to know why the Magic are good and the Pistons still stink, there's a big part of your answer. This may be a rivalry someday, but for now, it's one young team that has backed up its words with action and one that hasn't progressed significantly in a single area in four years.