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Orlando Magic @ San Antonio Spurs

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No team in the NBA is playing better than the Orlando Magic. The Spurs have however, been playing pretty well themselves, winning three of their last four games, including victories over two of the league’s elite teams – the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. After a disappointing loss in New Jersey against the Nets (without Manu Ginobili), the Spurs defeated the Houston Rockets 119-102 Wednesday behind George Hill’s 30 points. Orlando defeated the Dallas Mavericks 97-82 on Thursday night.

These teams met just over two weeks ago on March 17th in Orlando. The Magic dominated the game and blew out the Spurs 110-84, holding Tim Duncan to a career-worst 1-of-10 shooting from the field. Vince Carter lead the Magic with 24 points, eight assists and four rebounds.

Basketball Stats

The Spurs, 45-29, enter the game in a tie with the Portland Trail Blazers for the seventh spot in the western conference and are just three-and-a-half games behind the Phoenix Suns for the fourth seed. Ninth seeded Memphis is seven games behind the Spurs and Trail Blazers, so the Spurs are in no danger of missing the postseason. Orlando is currently the #2 seed in the Eastern conference with a record of 53-22 and now have a four-and-a-half game lead over the Atlanta Hawks. You can add another game on to that lead because the Magic also hold the tiebreaker, because they have won three of their four metings with the Hawks this season.

The Spurs have been very good at home, posting a record of 27-11 there. After Thursday night’s win in Dallas, Orlando is now 23-15 on the road this season.

Tip-off from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas is scheduled for 8:30 pm EST. The game will be aired locally by Sun Sports. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it locally on WDBO AM 580 and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

The Spurs remain without Tony Parker because of his broken right hand.

The Line: San Antonio – 2.5

Starters:

San Antonio Spurs

Antonio McDyess
Tim Duncan
Richard Jefferson
Manu Ginobili
George Hill

Orlando Magic

Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Matt Barnes
Vince Carter
Jameer Nelson

When these two teams met just over two weeks ago ago, the Spurs kept the game fairly close in the first half before the Magic pulled away in the third quarter, breaking the game wide open and eventually earning a 110-84 victory. All 12 Magic players scored in the game and it was never close after halftime.

Tim Duncan remains the Spurs’ MVP but Manu Ginobili really can dictate how good this team can be. They defeated both the Cavaliers and Celtics last week with Ginobili and then lost a game to the lowly Nets without him. Ginobili is averaging 16.0 points and 4.9 assists per game this season, but he has been playing much better as of late. He scored 22.1 points, dished out 5.8 assists and grabbed 3.8 rebounds per game in the month of March.

Offensively, the Spurs score 101.1 points per game and rank ninth in offensive efficiency (107.0). They give up 96.2 points per game and also rank ninth in defensive efficiency (102.0). That shows you how much of a role luck and matchups can play. The Spurs rank have been more efficienct on both offense and defense and have a higher point differential than the Western Conference’s second seed, the Dallas Mavericks, yet the Spurs trail the Mavericks by four games in the Southwest Division.

Duncan is still the team’s leader in scoring (18.0 per game), rebounding (10.2 per game), and blocks (1.59 per game). He’s been especially good against the Magic in his career, averaging 23.0 points per game on 54.3% shooting from the field and 12.0 rebounds per game.

Richard Jefferson, who has been for the most part, a disappointment this season, has played much better lately, averaging 16.8 points per game over his last four. He’s scoring 12.3 points per game on the season.

George Hill, who scored 30 points on Wednesday, has been a more than adequate replacement for Parker at Point Guard. Hill has started 39 of the 74 games he’s played and is scoring 12.7 points and dishing out 2.9 assists per game.

After the Magic defeated the Spurs two weeks back, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich offered the Magic some lofty praise.

“I think they are built for championships,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said. “They have everything that it takes. They have all the elements there. It’s a matter of being consistent and focused. I think they have the ability to get it done.”

This should be a very tough game for the Magic. They are not only playing a smart, veteran team, who plays even better at home, but they are on the second night of a back-to-back. The Magic have the better team, but it will take an excellent effort to get a victory.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks and Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).