Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY
In an 82-game schedule, some nights are going to be frustrating. Some nights are going to be long and the opponent is going to get under your skin. Some nights the other team is simply going to be better than you. You will not have a lot of answers for why things went wrong so suddenly or why the game ended up the way you did.
The Magic certainly had to feel that way with the clinic the Spurs put on them. Especially Nikola Vucevic.
Vucevic, usually a reliable big man in the post, found himself missing shots he normally makes, mistiming his tip ins (for two offensive interference goaltends), missing or rushing jumpers from the free throw line that are usually automatic and turning the ball over against the pressure defense the Spurs threw at him — whether from Tim Duncan alone or from a cadre of Spurs defenders seemingly always in perfect position.
Vucevic struggled his way to 12 points and seven rebounds, missing eight of 12 shots and turning the ball over eight times. It was the kind of rough, confusing performance that a team executing to perfection and with the level of experience that a team like San Antonio leaves its opponents with.
The Spurs went on a 17-0 run midway through the second quarter that put the clamps on the game and coasted to a 109-91 victory over the Magic at Amway Center on Friday.
"I think I wasn't really playing as smart," Vucevic said. "I let the frustration get to me, missed some shots, didn't get in. Tim [Duncan is] one of the best ever. He kind of got to me, got me a little frustrated. I can't have that happen."
Tim Duncan helped a lot in carving up Vucevic and grinding the Magic's offense to a relative halt. Duncan scored 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting and added nine rebounds in an easy night of 23 minutes. Duncan caught the Magic sleeping on him a few times as he turned out a throwback array of moves to go with his always reliable play.
It seemed the Spurs were able to take advantage of every Magic mistake turning 15 turnovers into 14 points and getting into the paint for 44 points while holding the Magic to 24 points in the paint on 32 attempts.
San Antonio looked every bit the team that had more experience playing together and the trust to force Orlando into difficult shots time and time again. The Magic had to make precises plays to beat the Spurs defense and just did not have the ability to do it consistently.
Vucevic said Jacque Vaughn talked to the team about playing with discipline in attacking the Spurs defense. It was not there for much of the night. Certainly for long stretches when the Spurs took control of the game late in the first quarter and in that second quarter run.
"They are really good and they test your discipline and your ability to do the right thing on both ends of the floor every possession," Jacque Vaughn said. "That's why they are 14-2."
Orlando shot 43.6 percent from the game and relied heavily on 3-pointers to keep the game close. That is not a good way for this team to stay in games. Not when the Spurs are playing this together and this well on offense.
San Antonio made 55.3 percent of their shots and all 17 of their free throws. The Spurs fearured balance scoring getting 19 points from Duncan and and 19 off the bench from Marco Belinelli. Everyone on the Spurs seemed in sync and able to move the ball comfortably. At least during the stretches the team was really very good.
The Spurs still committed 19 turnovers which turned into 21 Magic points. That would normally keep Orlando in the game. It was just tough for the Magic to crack the defense.
"They played well tonight as they do every night," Arron Afflalo said. "They are consistent in their approach to the game. What they do night in and night out. Just another good performance by them."
Afflalo said for the Magic to get to that level guys just have to do what they are supposed to for their team every day. A young team like the Magic is a long way away from doing that. It was hard for him to put a finger on what exactly the Spurs do right all the time.
"I'm not even quite sure what they do," Afflalo said. "They play hard, just play hard and play well. I don't know if it's their blueprint or their personnel. I don't know if you can just apply what they do to any team and think you'll be successful. They've got good players. The longevity and success fo what they have done is probably a large part because of Tim, Manu and Tony. Those guys are really good."
Parker did not even play Friday night and the Spurs worked Cory Joseph into the lineup effortlessly and seamlessly for an easy victory.
The Magic made no real challenge in the second half and only let their frustration fester and simmer. Vucevic, seemingly fittingly for this frustrating night for the young center, picked up his second technical foul and also two offensive interference calls, the second one coming early in the fourth quarter as the Magic made one of those pushes that looked like it had just fallen off the rim.
Vucevic is not getting the benefit of the doubt. Neither are the Magic. And frustrating learning nights like these will still happen.
It is a potential lesson learned heading into a long road trip to start December.