San Antonio Spurs 84, Orlando Magic 110

by

Although it has been over a year since the San Antonio Spurs faced the Orlando Magic, tonight’s game picked up right where the ’08-09 regular season series left off. After playing a competitive first quarter, the Spurs failed to challenge the Walt Disney Co. Magicians for the remainder of the game’s 36 minutes, and lost in Orlando 110-84.

For all intents and purposes, the game was lost during the first six minutes of the second quarter. Two back-to-back three pointers by Matt Bonner to close the half made it appear as if the Spurs could fight their way back into this one. But you were watching, you knew otherwise.

When considered on a macroscopic level, watching the Spurs play the Magic is a bit like staring into San Antonio’s past. The Magic are a stout defensive team with a dominant big man and a penchant for the long ball. (Obviously a closer examination reveals a multitude of nuance.)  Their style is, broadly conceived, the same as the Spurs. Except, during the past two seasons, whenever the two teams have met, Orlando’s superior athleticism and execution have propelled them to victory by wide margins.

Although the Spurs did not exactly shoot the lights out this evening (Duncan, McDyess and Hill combined for 3-19 from the floor), this game was lost on the defensive end of the floor. Blame it on the back-to-back games, old age or overall ineptitude, but the Spurs did a remarkably poor job closing out on the Magic’s prolific perimeter shooters. Quick and acute close-outs have been a rare commodity this season, so the fact that I consider the Spurs mediocre perimeter defense to be remarkable says something.

The Spurs looked as if their legs had gone out from under them; dispassionately applied screens and casual off-the-ball movement by the Magic produced plenty of wide open outside shots and spacious driving lanes. At points the Spurs sagged into a state of defensive limbo, drifting into the mid-range and leaving plenty of space for Vince Carter to shoot from distance or for Matt Barnes to sneak through the back door. For the most part, Dwight Howard was a decoy (with 9 points and 7 rebounds, he had a comparatively quiet night). The Magic exploited any doubles the big man drew, and sank 10 of their 23 three point attempts.

Were it not for Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson, tonight’s outing would have been even worse. They combined for 38 of the Spurs 84 points, shooting an efficient 17 of 25 from the field collectively. Ginobili continues to distribute the ball with confidence and creativity, although he and the recipient’s of his passes seemed to be off by a split second tonight. Meanwhile, It’s becoming increasingly indisputable that Richard Jefferson is at his most comfortable when playing small forward.

I’ll be honest– I didn’t feel confident going into tonight’s game and I won’t feel confident when we play Orlando on April 2. Tonight’s blowout wasn’t about the Spurs struggles this season. It was about the perennial match-up problems Orlando poses for San Antonio.

  • Bert

    What is all the complaining about?

    The reason the spurs aren’t good is cos Duncan isn’t good anymore. And everyone forgets the point about these blogs.

    They are to be commented and not for someone to make this as their own blog. Enjoy the reading the please.

  • Ian

    I’m not that high on Pop myself, but bashing him and FO for the Spurs’ underachievement is just ridiculous. Like Tyler said, there are plenty of blames to go around. And no, playing younger guys and sitting all the old guys won’t probably help the issue either. Mahinmi sure has talent but he’s just that: unfulfilled talent. You can’t blame Pop for playing Duncan, Dice, Blair and Bonner ahead of Mahinmi. Blame it on the freak injuries that ultimately caused Mahinmi to miss opportunity to prove himself when the Spurs front-court was depleted last year.

  • Bushka

    Pop is not the problem.

    Tim was rubbish. Which is rare.

    But we couldn’t shoot and we defended like pants.

  • Buckets

    The problem is the Spurs do not have any length at all from the 2 position to the 5.

    Orlando have Howard, Lewis, Gortat and Bass all over 6ft 10′, Spurs have one (not including no minutes Mahinmi).

    This goes for matchups against Lakers, Cavs, Mavs, Jazz, Blazers they all have players with length and high basketball IQ, Spurs can no way in hell matchup with these teams.

    Basetball is a tall mans game and the Spurs do not have the players to compete agains these stacked teams.

  • Buckets

    The Spurs in a lot of games this season have thrown the towel in and shown no heart. If every player showed heart like Ginobili does every game the season would be a different story.

  • Greg Popovich

    Leave me alone, everyone. Timmy is on the slide, TP has a bad wheel and now is out, and Manu is just coming around. Losing Bowen was a major blow to our defense–one that was exacerbated by and aging Duncan and bringing on RJ, who can’t guard a potted plant. If players could play the defense I coach, we would be fine, but they can’t play it as well anymore–that’s the plain and simple truth. Opposing teams torch us for big quarter when that rarely happen in previous years. Opposing teams shoot high percentages against us when we used to lead the league year in and year out.

    The calls to start/play Hairston, Mahinmi, et al are silly. Hairston can barely keep from dribbling the ball off his own feet. Mahinmi closes his eyes before shooting. Even if I started both, they would foul out within the first quarter.

    I think BALLHOG should coach the Spurs since he obviously knows good coaching when he sees it and has a profound knowledge of all the problems our team faces.

  • BALLHOG

    @kevin

    I understand fully if you do not echo my opinion of the coach.

    I understand the loyalty shown to this coach by his fan base.

    I was riding that same train for years.

    But, I dont see adjustments being made, players being put in position to succeed, Evaluating and utilizing each players strengths, etc…Coaching issues…

    But, I try to look at things realistically. Pop basically wasted a season. He wasted this season as if the age of the Big 3 was not an issue….

    A 20 year veteran coach doesnt allow his team to still be in pre-season mode at the end of the season. Still looking for an identity? Rotations, Subs, or even a simple Zone defense, completely absent?

    Maybe its me, but I just feel that there is no viable excuse to spend an entire seson juggling rotations. Should have been a set rotation well before the all star break.

    Furthermore, The personnel issues are horrifying. Why would this coach and FO put players on the roster that they know cannot play? Why continue to sign players, pay them, and not play them.

    But,

    Can no longer claim that he is developing them. Mahinmi has been here for 22 years already. How long does it take to develope a player? Is it a year? 2 years? What?

    If it does take that amount of time, does that mean that Mcdyess, Jefferson, and even the rookie Blair are just smarter than the average bear? Hoops Brainiacs?

    Why is signing marginal to substandard talent the norm? Is he afraid that a Letrell Sprewell type player might revolt and smack his chin?

    Is it because better players have the wrong attitude?

    Is it because all of them have unmanageable character issues?

    Are they required to have so many volunteer hours with the Boys and Girls club?

    Are American collegiate ballers frowned upon, (Other than Hill and Blair)?

    Its not personal. I have never met Popovich and he has never kicked my tire.

    But
    Cant hold the players accountable if you wont let them play. Too controlling…Now, if he were to sit his @#$% down and let these guys just go out and compete within the confines of his system, without over coaching, then we could hold them accountable.

    Until then, Pop is the Huckleberry!

  • BayAreaSpursFan

    Ups and downs, highs and lows, its all part of the game. There was alot to take in from this game. First is the Spurs do not match up with the elite teams. Second our bench does not match up with the elite teams. Third I was impressed by RJ’s play these past few games. He played hard and agressive against the Magic. I hope this continues the rest of the season. Last but not least Manu needs to be resigned. He is the one person who is keeping this team together. I was not expecting much of a blowout but that is what happens when the Spurs are outmatched with younger and more athletic guys on the court.

  • Colin

    Damn fellas……more of the same ole’ shit…….that Poppovich sure is a horrible coach (my sarcasm). The horse has been beat to death.

    The Spurs just aren’t as good this year and it wouldn’t matter if Poppovich, George Karl, Phil Jackson, or Kiki Vandeweghe (from the Nets) were coaching.

    ….and this sure as hell applies to the blasphemy that implies playing Hairston and Mahinmi more would fix our problems, because they can’t!

  • Bushka

    Yeah it kills me.

    Certain sections of the fanbase are spoilt beyond belief from all the titles and playoff series the past 12 or 14 years.

    The implication is always that if we’re not winning it has to be SOMEBODIES fault.

    There is SOMEONE not doing their job or playing up to the level they should be at.

    In breaking news, apparently theres 30 teams in the league.

    No one team wins every year.

    Get used to it.

    We’re not the best this year. The front office tried but we cannot put it together every night to the level that some teams can.

  • buns

    Most of us were happy at the start of the season. Jefferson, McDyess, Blair, Hill, and the three stars on their feet. By that time, many thought the Spurs were legitimate contenders.
    But TP’s body pull up the white flag, Ginobili needed half the season to bring back Manu, Duncan started strong only to fade little by little, Jefferson suddenly seemed lost on the court, and Pop tried some experiment — pobably thinking that he HAD to try some new strategies cause last years were just playoffs years with no title (and the Spurs targets titles, not playoffs).
    And with all that, you have a (more or less) 50w regular season team.

    It could be better, we’re ok on that. It could be worse, lets not forget that too.
    Bushka is right: some of us are spoiled fans. Some are just so willing for the Spurs to win that they don’t allow them to fail.

    Giving an opinion on a board is not a simple thing. Often one seems to oversimplify, resulting in a feeling that all the problems are because of one thing. That’s not all on Pop. Nor all on TP, or Manu, TD or Jefferson. The path for a franchise to success or failure is obviously more complex and I’m sure we all agree on that.

  • manufan

    I would like to see Hairston starting with Hill at guard positions, and Manu coming off the bench. Also, Mahinmi should get minutes from McDyees. Pop needs to solidify rotations already or it’s gonna be to late. Players need to know their roles and get comfortable within. Rotations are upide down and that hurt us the most. Hill, Hairston, RJ, Duncan and Mahinmi should start. Right there you got perimeter defence,lateral quicknes,transition defense,rebounding, and fastbreak.
    Simplify your sistem and let Manu go and get you where you wanna go.

  • rj

    i’m not going to lie. there has been times that i thought hairston and mahinmi could change everything, but that is certainly fools gold.

    here is my case for mahinmi:

    A- he knows the spurs system and defensive rotations. there would be less of an adjustment period.

    B- his past seasons with the franchise deserve a pass considering he has spent time in austin and an entire season in the training room. his best ball is yet to come

    C- we are extremely limited in our free agent contention and athletic bigs are hard to come by. he is the only player on our frontcourt who can contest shots. he is also developing a nice offensive game. his rebounding numbers will drastically improve if he can put on more muscle mass on his legs so he won’t get pushed out from under the basket. he already boxes out extremely well. the fouls will be under control the more court time he sees.

    i honestly can’t say for certain that he will return, but our best bet nxt year for a title is the development of guys like hairston, mahinmi, blair, into rotation players and the continuing excellence of hill to help relieve the burden of our aging big three and even then, that still won’t be enough.

    rebuilding with malik, george, tony, dejuan, and ian is a decent place to start. oh, and WE AREN’T GETTING TIAGO SPLITTER!

  • OneWing

    Splitter – probably won’t sign on with the NBA looking at a lockout.

    Ian – Someone will offer him more money than we are realistically able to. Think full mid-level exception. We aren’t going to be able to push our own mid-level entirely into Ian. Especially while we are praying that it might be enough to lure Splitter.

    I think this year has turned into the year that everyone has been expecting the Spurs to have for the last few years – the end of the window of the Tim Duncan era. But the team is still just good enough to keep fighting for 50-win seasons for a while longer, and that will keep the seats sold.

    2-3 more 50-win seasons after this one and then Duncan and Pop will retire at the same time. Then the decline will complete itself, we’ll drop down to the lottery for a bit and hope to strike gold again.

  • DieHardSpur

    RJ-

    I am with you on Ian’s development – This has to be considered his rookie year. His turnovers are the only thing he has has against him. I believe those would come waaaaay down, if given more time to work on the court. I think that 15+ minutes would do wonders for his game, and for the money, I dont think you can beat his production/knowledge of the system.

    As far is Splitter is concerned, I believe we will have to choose between Manu and Tiago. If we pay one, the other wont be here. It is my understanding that we could have them on the full MLE. Not both – one or the other.

    As far as salary cap goes, we have $19,579,797.00 in expirings this year including Manu.

    Who we should keep/get:

    Manu – $7,000,000.00 – 2 year contract
    Mahinmi – $1,500,000.00 – 3 year contract
    Splitter – $5,000,000.00 – 3 year contract

    Throw in a Million dollar shooter or two…

    Now, If it was only my money…!

  • rj

    @ onewing

    you really think someone will offer him more money than we can? i would think he is flying under the radar and someone over at PTR (pounding the rock) suggested that we aren’t playing Ian because we don’t want to increase his free agent value. but then again, it is a scout’s job to find these diamond-in-the-rough players. hopefully everyone will be so comsummed with the big names this summer that someone will overlook and him and we get him on the cheap.

    i wish there was some sort of espn database that could indicate a player’s impending average market value. that would be interesting.

  • Tyler

    If some GM is duped into giving Ian the full midlevel, then God bless him, because that is not a contract that’s going to look good when the salary cap comes down a few million dollars.

    If the staff really does like Ian, we would have picked up his option earlier this year and continued his development with a chance(s) to break into the rotation. As it stands though, we did neither, which tells me, he’s not coming back for much more than he’s making this year.

    As for keeping him under the radar, he was an all-star in the D-League – every team knows who he is.

  • Joe

    @OneWing:

    One minor thought about Splitter — I’ve heard that argument that he’ll be less likely to come over this summer because of the possibility of the lock-out and because he’s being pursued hard by some Euro clubs, and that line of thought makes a lot of sense.

    That said, however, there may be a real incentive for Euro guys like Splitter (and Rubio if he could buy out of his current deal, for that matter) to come over this summer rather than wait if you look at it this way. Many NBA writers speculating about the likely out-come of the next CBA seem to think the guys that might be hurt the most are the mid-level to not-quite-max guys (how many teams hosed their cap space this decade not because they had 3 max guys but because they had 5 or 6 decent players each making $6 – $9 million?). If you’re a European guy from that talent category that dreams of coming to the NBA, wouldn’t it be better to sign on now under the old CBA than wait until the new one is settled, when you might be looking at half the yearly paycheck with fewer guaranteed years on your deal?

    Throwing out some hypothetical numbers, under the old CBA, Splitter might get a 4-year deal starting at $5 million/year, which comes to $20 – $25 million. Under the new CBA, what if that deal became 3 years for starting at $3 or $4 million? The new deal would be about $12 – $15 million. It seems like you’d come away with more money under the new deal even if a whole season were lost due to lock-out. Just a thought.

  • Joe

    Incidentally, does anyone know what the FIBA rules are for players’ ability to sign abroad in a different league during a lock-out? Could NBA guys sign 1-year deals in Europe contingent that the deal is void at the end of the lock-out, or is that expressly forbidden?

  • Tyler

    FIBA honors NBA contracts and vice versa. Therefore, even in the event of a lockout, anyone under contract in the NBA can’t sign a deal with a FIBA team.

  • Jim Henderson

    Tyler
    March 19th, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I concur on Mahinmi. We will not be paying him much to resign (if we do at all), and it’s doubtful other teams will either. I would be surprised if he was still not considered something of a project by the great majority of teams in the league, and therefore an inconsistent, low-minute man outside the main rotation.