Soobum Im/USA TODAY
The Orlando Magic ran into the buzz saw that is the San Antonio Spurs in what looked like their dress rehearsal for the regular season (just a week away!).
The Spurs took a 25-point lead at the half and a 30-point lead into the third quarter behind the stellar play of Tim Duncan on their way to a 123-101 win at AT&T Center on Tuesday. The ageless wonder that is Duncan scored 10 points and dished out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds in 24 minutes of work. Kawhi Leonard had 19 points and Manu Ginobili score 12 points in 17 minutes as San Antonio shot 53.4 percent from the floor and 11 for 26 from beyond the arc.
It was a game where things went right for the Spurs and what happened after did not really seem to matter. The Spurs rolled out a regular season-like first half. The Magic could not keep up.
Victor Oladipo led the Magic with 22 points on 9-for-19 shooting. He added six assists. Arron Afflalo had 17 points in 37 minutes.
The will to keep fighting
Preseason scores largely do not matter. This late in the preseason, maybe teams should be rounding more into form and resemble wht they will look like in the regular season. In that way a 30-point deficit following the third quarter was discouraging.
Focusing on the positive however, points to the fourth quarter. This is where the culture of the team really shined through.
Much like the Pistons did in Sunday's game, the Magic left their starting unit (or the equivalent with the young players on the roster) in to try to close the gap against the Spurs' bench players — Duncan, Ginobili and Leonard were clearly done for the night. Orlando opened the fourth quarter wtih a 19-5 run that cut the lead in half.
Hate being down and hate losing the game, but like the team's ability to fight even when there really is no reason to do so.
This was a preseason game after all. Nobody would have blamed a young player with relative job security packed it in and got ready for practice Thursday or Friday's preseason finale at home.
They did not do that. Oladipo kept fighting, Romero Osby kept fighting, Maurice Harkless kept fighting. E'Twaun Moore kept fighting, Kyle O'Quinn kept fighting.
We should not be surprised by this. These are the qualities the Magic look for in players and why they loved these young players so much. It is still great to see, even in a game with little on the line.
Defending the 3-point line and transition defense
The Magic are going to have to make the biggest strides this year on the defensive end. The offense is going to be the team's relative strength. Good teams are built on their defense and this is what the Magic will have to learn.
Orlando gave up 53.8 percent shooting and 11-for-26 shooting from beyond the arc. The Spurs worked the inside-out game and the transition game gorgeously. Or like the Spurs normally do.
San Antonio scored 36 fast break points, turning 19 Orlando turnovers into 28 points. In other words, San Antonio largely put on a clinic. The Spurs are still the Spurs. They took everything to the Magic and executed like a championship team should.
Orlando though has to continue striving to get better in this area. They are a young team and should have the energy to defend in transition and get out on the break on their own.
In many game sthis year, it would not be surprising if one of the key differences are how the Magic play in these two areas. The Magic should win most games in which they can score 101 points. But the pace was so sped up and Orlando had so few answers, that the raw score did not matter.
Simply put, the Magic are not outscoring any teams any time soon.
We are still waiting to see who will step up and play efficiently on offense.
OK, so there was no Nikola Vucevic and no Tobias Harris and no Jameer Nelson. They would have helped take a significant part of the scoring load and help spread shots around a little more.
There are still several players who have struggled to make the majority of their shots when given the opportunity. It is part of the learning process and might just be a problem to accept once again this season. Improvement in this area may be slow.
Jason Maxiell and Maurice Harkless were each 6 for 13. Victor Oladipo shot 9 for 19 from the floor. Kyle O'Quinn was 5 for 12. None of these are necessarily so awful. They are slightly below .500, but their usage rate was much higher than it normally will be.
The Magic are still looking for efficient offensive options.