San Antonio Spurs 84, Orlando Magic 110
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.)Â 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.