The San Antonio Spurs (5-7) are now owners of a four-game losing streak thanks to a 111-109 defeat at the hands of the Orlando Magic (5-7) on Friday night. The Spurs actually had control of this game (a contest between two teams involved in recent trade rumors) for a while before it slipped away.
The game was close in the first quarter until San Antonio’s bench unit came in and created some separation with hustle, ball-movement and straight shooting. At the end of the period, the Spurs were up 31-24. In the second quarter, things only got better for the good guys, as a Bryn Forbes three-pointer put the Spurs up by 16 points, 50-34, at the 4:17 mark.
But then the slippage commenced. The Spurs were sloppy to close out the half and Orlando only trailed by nine at intermission, 56-47. In the third, the Silver and Black tried to hold onto their dwindling advantage but the momentum was gone. Seven minutes into the second half, an Evan Fournier three-pointer put the Magic up by three points, 69-66.
The Spurs then appeared to right the ship. Their level of play improved and they led 82-79 heading into the fourth. A Marco Belinelli three-pointer gave the Spurs a seven-point lead, 87-80, 90 seconds into the final stanza. But sustained momentum was not to be on this night, as the Magic responded with a 10-2 run to take the lead.
Down the stretch, the lead changed hands until a Fournier three-pointer with 1:15 remaining put the Magic up by three. The Spurs continued to battle but San Antonio’s comeback was thwarted when DeMar DeRozan was called for a flagrant foul in the closing seconds, which basically sealed the game for the home team.
All in all, it’s a tough loss to swallow because the Spurs legitimately played pretty well in a lot of categories. They shot well from the field and from three-point range, while turning it over only 11 times and holding the Magic to 41.4% shooting from the floor. But, unfortunately, that couldn’t overcome the fact that the Magic shot 24 more free throws and pulled down 14 offensive rebounds.
The bottom line is the Spurs did okay but they need to play smarter to get road wins. Undisciplined fouls and lazy rebounding isn’t going to get it done.
Spurs at Magic – Final Grades
The good: LaMarcus Aldridge played strong interior defense. Nikola Vucevic had a tough night and a lot of that had to do with Aldridge. His five blocks point to how active he was defending the rim. And while his offensive stats don’t look that good, it should be noted that he was 5-for-8 in the second half while scoring all 13 of his points in the final two quarters. The bad: He’s not even pretending he’s going to post-up and overpower opponents these days, which is a problem. His rebounding is also missing in action. And while Aldridge was a good paint defender tonight, his perimeter defense was extremely lacking.
DeMar DeRozan was the best player on the Spurs against the Magic — but that’s not as glowing of an endorsement as it sounds. On offense, he mostly did well attacking the rim and taking advantage of mismatches. His passing was also above average and he didn’t make too many mistakes with the ball. All told, he played with good pace and a healthy amount of determination on offense. Defensively, though, he was highly inconsistent. DeRozan made a few impressive plays on that end but he also had his share of miscues. Plus, to make matters worse, he wasn’t rebounding.
Considering his up and down play as of late, this was a step in the right direction for Dejounte Murray. He hit a couple jumpers, controlled the offense well and basically just looked the part of a starting point guard. Defensively, he limited his gambles but was still able to make plays. Unfortunately, Murray negated a lot of his positives with sloppy play. He had a couple ill-advised passes but where he struggled more was with fouls on the defensive end. This was Murray’s second straight game in foul trouble. With as much as the Spurs are struggling on defense, he can’t afford to rack up cheap fouls.
It was a bit of a weird game for Bryn Forbes, as he was 4-for-7 on three-pointers but 0-for-6 on two-pointers. He hit a few difficult threes but couldn’t finish his drives at all. Defensively, he was as underwhelming as we’ve come to expect, although give him credit for not picking up a personal foul. But it would have been helpful if he did any work on the boards — even if it were to just box out.
Slowly but surely, Trey Lyles seems to be emerging. While he had a few mistakes on offense, fumbled away a few opportunities and had a couple of bad fouls, Lyles also did quite a bit of good. His rebounding, particularly offensively, was really good. When he was in the game, the Spurs actually looked competent on the glass. Lyles hit two more three-pointers, including a clutch one with two minutes remaining to pull the Spurs within two points. All in all, he’s playing an alert brand of basketball that has to be winning him points with the coaches.
There wasn’t too much to be excited with regarding Derrick White’s play. On offense, he authored a couple nice passes and hit a three-pointer. On defense, he was going for a lot of blocks and got two of them. But outside of those highlights, it was a lot of middling possessions. White’s actual man-to-man defense was unimpressive. On the other end, he never appeared fully confident and wasn’t finishing off his forays to the rim.
Rudy Gay is playing hard, let’s applaud him for that. Offensively, I thought he was out of control at times but his final shooting percentages are nothing to be mad about. He could have passed the ball more but he was making the Magic account for him at all times. Defensively, he was trying out there but the results were lacking. Most notably, the Spurs really struggled to rebound when he was on the court. This was one of the games where he looked undersized for the power forward position — something that doesn’t happen too often these days in this miniaturizing NBA.
Patty Mills was the yin to Forbes’ yang, as he hit only 1-of-3 threes but was able to make 5-of-6 from two-point range. Orlando paid close attention to him yet Mills still found ways to score off the bench. He was aggressive but still took smart shots. Defensively, I can’t complain. He got after it on the perimeter and tallied three steals in his 19 minutes. Mills’ energy was infectious at times and it’s clear he’s trying to motivate his teammates out of the current doldrums.
Hey, a sign of life from Jakob Poeltl. The Austrian’s nine points ties a season-high as he had his awkwardly timed (and thus hard to block) shots going in the paint. On top of that, he made smart passes, ran the court well and was super active with his hands and feet on the defensive end. I would have graded Poeltl even higher but he had an unmistakable flaw: defensive rebounding. He wasn’t boxing out well and wasn’t grabbing contested boards either, which made it hard for the Spurs to keep the Magic off the glass.
Marco Belinelli didn’t exactly go off but this has to at least be considered an average game for him. On defense, he was in the right position more often than not and was one of the few Spurs who remembered to try to grab defensive rebounds. In fact, it was probably his most complete defensive game of the season, although that’s obviously not saying much at all. On offense, he missed open shots — including from the line — but his shot-selection was fine.
I don’t have an issue with the starting lineup but Pop needs to let the bench play longer stretches when they have it going. DeRozan, for example, isn’t needed for 37 minutes. He’s not enough of a true difference-maker to play him much more than 30-32 minutes right now. And while I would like seeing Pop extend the bench in times like this game, that doesn’t mean use Mills at point guard. That has to be Murray or White — period. The play-calling down the stretch left much to be desired but the Spurs had this game won if they cleaned up things in just a couple of areas.
Next Up for the Spurs
The Spurs travel from Orlando to San Antonio to play the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night. Dejounte Murray will sit out the back-to-back so it’s going to take a real effort to stop this losing streak from reaching five games.