Spurs at Magic Give and Go Preview

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The Spurs go into the Amway Center in Orlando tonight to take on the Magic and their new head coach, former Spurs assistant coach Jacque Vaughn. The Magic are fourth out of five teams in the Southeast Division thanks to Vaughn getting a lot out of his Magic players and the Washington Wizards being terrible.

Tonight’s game is the third of a four games in five nights stretch, so there’s a chance we could see some guys rest, but I doubt it (now that I’ve said publicly that I don’t think anyone will sit out, expect Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to rest). For more on the Magic, we brought in Eddy Rivera of ESPN TrueHoop Network site Magic Basketball to talk about how Orlando is doing this season.

Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: First, how is Orlando enjoying the Jacque Vaughn era?

Eddy Rivera, Magic Basketball: I’d say Magic fans are pretty pleased with him. In a short amount of time, Vaughn has proven that he’s capable of maximizing the roster’s potential. In many ways, he reminds me of the work Doc Rivers did in 2000 with the “Heart and Hustle” team as a rookie head coach.

AM: What specifically has he done well to get the most out of this team?

ER: He puts players in positions to succeed and play to their strengths. It’s amazing to see how many coaches struggle with that concept.

AM: On the floor, where has Orlando been strong? Where do the excel, if anywhere?

ER: The Magic are ranked 8th in defensive efficiency, so defense has been a strong suit for them. Two big reasons: Orlando ranks 1st in 3-point defense (opponents shoot 30.7 percent) and free-throw “defense” (opponents shoot 68.8 percent). The problem is that both 3-point and free throw shooting are independent of defenses faced, so it’s unlikely that those numbers will hold the remainder of the season. They may and if they do, I’d chalk that up more to randomness than anything the Magic are doing defensively.

AM: Who is considered the “go-to guy” for the Magic? Or, who should the Spurs worry about the most defensively?

ER: J.J. Redick. There’s other “go-to” players for Orlando on offense, but Redick is the guy that defenses should key in on the most. He’s a dynamic player offensively, particularly off the ball, where he tortures defenders with his seemingly endless off-ball movement.

AM: Do you feel like the Magic is outperforming expectations at this point in the season?

ER: Totally, and that’s a credit to the players for playing hard and for Vaughn coaching his butt off. That being said, I do think the Magic will regress to the mean eventually. Where does that mean fall in terms of win total? I have no clue at this point. I will say this — Orlando better hope that win total lands them somewhere close to the worst record in the NBA.

AM: Do you see this game being close at all, assuming the Spurs play all their healthy guys?

ER: I expect the Spurs to win pretty handily.

AM: Last thing before I let you go. I need one random prediction that has nothing to do with the final score.

ER: I predict Big Baby to miss a lot of shots (too easy, I know).

AM: Can I get a specific number and/or shooting percentage?

ER: Let’s go with 42 percent, which is his average for the season.

AM: Number of misses?

ER: Nine missed shots.