The San Antonio Spurs got a much-needed victory on Saturday night. Just barely. In a game that came down to the final play, the Spurs beat the Orlando Magic by a final score of 114-113. The win improves San Antonio to 25-33 on the season and elevates them to the tenth seed in the Western Conference. The Magic dropped to 27-33 with the loss.
Playing without LaMarcus Aldridge for the second straight game, the Spurs got off to a strong start. The defense was playing well to begin the first quarter and then the offense got hot later in the period. San Antonio led by as many as 14 points before taking a 38-27 lead into the second.
The Magic played really well to begin the second quarter. In six minutes, they had trimmed the Spurs advantage to 45-44. However, that’s when the Spurs successfully regrouped. San Antonio immediately responded with a 16-3 run to take a 61-47 lead. Orlando scored the final six points before halftime to make it 61-53 at intermission.
In the third quarter, the Spurs kept playing well and grew their cushion to as high as 15 points. But Orlando once again closed the quarter strongly. Heading into the fourth, the Spurs lead was just four points, 85-81.
The fourth quarter was a roller coaster ride. The Spurs held a 90-86 advantage with nine and a half minutes remaining. That’s when the Magic went on a 10-0 run in less than two minutes to take a six-point lead. The Spurs responded right away with a 7-0 run to retake the lead.
After the teams traded a series of buckets, Orlando took a four-point lead on a Markelle Fultz jumper with two minutes remaining. With the pressure on, DeMar DeRozan scored at the hoop and then assisted Bryn Forbes on a driving runner and a three-pointer to give the Spurs a three-point lead with less than a minute to go. Fultz hit a jumper to make it a one-point game. The Spurs ended up turning it over on their next possession but thankfully the Magic missed a layup in the final seconds and the Spurs were able to escape with the victory.
Overall, a win is a win at this point. The Spurs played well at times and looked disjointed at other times. Let’s hope this W helps build some sort of momentum.
Spurs vs. Magic – Final Grades
While DeMar DeRozan missed some makeable shots, I thought he otherwise played really well. His passing was very good. When the Magic collapsed on him, he unselfishly found the open man again and again. Defensively, he competed better than usual and even got his hands dirty a couple times. DeRozan did whine quite a bit but at least he kept playing hard, for the most part.
All in all, I thought Dejounte Murray’s stats look better than he actually played. He was sloppy with his dribble, made questionable passes and was inconsistent in terms of running the offense. To his credit, Murray shot well, created shots from himself and others, and played really hard on the defensive end. He made a lot of little mistakes on the court here and there but it was definitely an improvement over his last two games.
Bryn Forbes’ jumper looks really good right now. While his form is always excellent, it’s a step above that right now. Offensively, he was more of a positive than a negative much of the night. He had his share of errors but his shooting helped space the floor. And then late in the game, it was Forbes who hit the two biggest shots. Defensively, he wasn’t good at any point, though.
Jakob Poeltl hurt his knee four minutes into the game and didn’t return. The Spurs are calling it a contusion. The replay makes it look more like a hyperextension. Let’s hope that he isn’t forced to miss much time.
Trey Lyles played a career-high 40 minutes — and the Spurs needed him out there for each and every minute. Offensively, he came out aggressive and it carried on throughout. He scored 12 first quarter points and was shooting confidently well into the fourth quarter. When he’s letting it fly and playing with freedom, Lyles is a helpful piece on the offensive end. Defensively, he was also really good against the Magic. He rebounded, his hands were very active in the passing lanes, he was physical in the paint and he even protected the rim a bit. The Spurs don’t win this game without Lyles giving them 40 strong minutes.
After what felt like two months of disappointing games, Rudy Gay finally put together a quality outing. Offensively, Gay nailed his first four three-pointers and then everything else started flowing smoothly for him. He was able to score from midrange and on drives to the rim after the Magic were forced to respect his three-point shots. Beyond his scoring, Gay also passed it really well and was as active as we’ve seen him on defense in a long, long time. He hit the boards, contested shots and more than survived in the low post when he spent time at center. I thought Gay could have done even more — he was passing up open shots too often — but this was obviously quite the improvement from what the Spurs have gotten out of him as of late.
Derrick White showed some flashes but he still has a lot of room to improve. He had some stellar passes and ran the offense reasonably well but could have exhibited more aggression on offense. Defensively, he had a few highlights, although there were plenty of times where his fire on that end was only lukewarm. Overall, I thought White was pretty good in most phases but failed to really stand out.
Patty Mills has been even more shot-happy than usual lately — but it hasn’t been working out too well. In his last four games, he’s shooting 26.8% from the field and 25.8% on three-pointers. Against Orlando, his energy was helpful but he wasn’t taking the smartest of shots and he wasn’t creating much offense to speak of. Defensively, he really was playing hard. He wasn’t always effective but his effort wasn’t in doubt.
With Aldridge and Poeltl out injured, Drew Eubanks was called upon — and he did really well. The guy has a big, powerful, athletic body that he uses to score at the rim, rebound the ball and go after blocks. He wasn’t scared, didn’t hesitate and went out there and competed. Eubanks even hit a three-pointer, which was a complete shock since he’s 0-for-3 on threes over two seasons and more than 1,300 minutes in the G League. Moreover, he didn’t even attempt a three-pointer in his three seasons in college. (Although he did work on his threes during the summer.) Defensively, he was a bit jumpy and reachy at times and looked lost on the perimeter but he kept playing hard and he turned out to be an asset.
Lonnie Walker IV
Lonnie Walker IV wasn’t playing impressive defense; he let his man run free too often. On offense, he only had a couple lackluster drives to the hoop and that was about it. Pop didn’t give Walker much of a shot to redeem himself in the second half, as he only played a couple spot minutes in the third and fourth.
Marco Belinelli entered the game and was a complete disaster on both ends. His defense was terrible, as is to be expected. On offense, he took a leading role … and the results were poor.
The good: Pop played Murray and White together for seven minutes, which is an improvement. He was right to lean on Lyles and give extra time to Gay. His trust in Eubanks paid off. Pop’s plays down the stretch worked, as did his decision to put Forbes back in the game late. The bad: The Belinelli experiment was a costly one. Walker could have been given a longer leash.
Next Up for the Spurs
The Spurs complete their three-game homestand on Monday against the Indiana Pacers. That’s another game San Antonio really needs to win if their aim is to advance to the postseason.