The Spurs have their roles and what they need to do to win down to a science. With Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and DeJuan Blair out tonight and Tim Duncan sitting out the second half (in what was then still a close game), San Antonio players stepped up and filled roles. No matter how many times you see it, it does not cease to impress.
One day the Magic will get there again. One day, Orlando will be like San Antonio and be able to confidently move guys around in the rotation and ask them to take on bigger roles and help them win games when key players have to sit out. The Magic are just at the beginning of that rebuilding process. The Spurs are at the apex and it did not matter who was in the game.
For the Magic, it still does. Still undermanned with injuries to many of their veterans, Jacque Vaughn experimented with a lineup featuring Andrew Nicholson, Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless starting together for the first time. It flamed out unceremoniously int he first few minutes of the game with the Spurs racing out to a 14-5 lead.
The Magic were climbing uphill again for most of the night. Orlando fought back time and time again but never could take the lead. San Antonio had the answer each time. A 23-23 game was answered with a 7-0 run. A two-point game in the fourth quarter was answered with nine points.
Execution won out in the end as San Antonio scored a 98-84 win at AT&T Center on Wednesday.
The Magic were game to keep the game tight most of the way. The Spurs never quite put the game away until a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter. The resolve and the activity to stay in the game even when shots were not falling was strong for a young team.
DeQuan Jones provided a big spark early on, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the first quarter. Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless were most successful in the open court and getting to the basket. Harris scored 11 points and had seven rebounds and five assists. Harkless scored 18 points to go with nine rebounds.
But Harkless and Harris both struggled to put the ball in the basket. Harris was 5 for 19 and Harkless was 8 for 21. The Magic shot 38.9 percent from the floor.
Execution in the half court matters against a strong defensive team like San Antonio.
The Magic are not a team that gets to the line very often. They settled for jumpers for a good chunk of the game and that is not their formula for success. The Spurs defense was together and knew how to turn the Magic away. That is what they do quite simply.
In the fourth quarter when San Antonio began to extend its lead, Orlando seemed to succumb to panic and took rushed shots as the game began to snowball in San Antonio's favor.
The poor shooting affected the defense. San Antonio was able to spring open for 3-pointers with Danny Green hitting four of his six on his way to 20 points and Gary Neal had four as well to score 16.
The Spurs finally found the right formula to pull away at the end, inserting Aron Baynes into the lineup. He used his size to help the Spurs put the game away, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter and adding five rebounds.
Again, it was another guy stepping up and stepping in to the lineup when the Spurs needed someone to do it. Jacque Vaughn said it was San Antonio's know how in doing those little things to get wins. The Magic are just beginning to learn how to do those things.