Denton's Dish: The 5th Quarter (3/8/14)

By John Denton
March 8, 2014

SAN ANTONIO – Here are five takeaways from the Orlando Magic’s 121-112 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night at the AT&T Center:

KEY MOMENT OF THE GAME: Orlando had just pulled within 101-97 on a difficult leaning bank shot by Tobias Harris when San Antonio point guard Tony Parker took over. He promptly drove hard in the lane to get to the free throw line for two free throws.

A couple of minutes later, Parker again got to the line for two more free throws that extended San Antonio’s lead. And when he followed that up with another difficult leaning bank shot in traffic, the Spurs had a comfortable 10-point lead and the starters could relax the rest of the night.

Parker was the smallest player on the floor most of the night, but he came up big in nearly every way possible throughout the game. He made 11 of 19 shots, drilled a 3-pointer and got to the free throw line eight times (with seven makes). He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and handed out five assists in the game for a Spurs offense that shot a solid 53.1 percent from the floor.

``They were coming back. In the fourth quarter, I always try to be very aggressive. I feel like it’s the most important time of the game, so I try to just make stuff happen,’’ Parker said. ``You have to give a lot of credit to Orlando. They made it tough on us. They made a lot of shots. They are very athletic. They have a lot of young guys who can do stuff. It was a good win for us and not easy after the Miami game.’’

MAGIC MAN OF THE NIGHT: Harris was near tears on Wednesday night when he made just three of 12 shots against Houston and scored only eight points. After all, he was coming off a career-best 31-point effort on Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers and he expected so much more from himself.

Harris, who has played almost exclusively at power forward as a starter since the contract buy out of Glen Davis, was moved into a reserve role on Saturday. The move wasn’t so much a demotion as it was an opportunity for Kyle O’Quinn to start against San Antonio’s towering front line.

Harris bounced back quite well from Wednesday’s stinker, making 11 of 16 shots for 23 points.

Despite starting the game on the bench, Harris was dialed in from the start. After stretching out in the tunnel, Harris entered the game with 4:53 left in the first period and sprinted down the floor for a three-point play just 20 seconds later. He had 13 points early on and 10 more in the fourth period to keep Orlando within striking distance.

``It’s a little bit different (off the bench as opposed to starting), but it’s the same approach to every game,’’ Harris said. ``I went back (in the tunnel) to get my legs loose and get my body going so I didn’t stiffen up. I just tried to stay ready so I could be a spark. Coming off the bench you have to change your mindset a little bit, but at the same time my mindset was to be a spark for my team.’’

QUOTABLE: Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is quite familiar with the Spurs from having played in San Antonio for three seasons and having coached with Gregg Popovich for two years. What he saw from the highly efficient Spurs on Saturday night was just more vintage basketball.

Said Vaughn of the Spurs, winners of six straight: ``It’s fun to watch. They give you lessons to learn about not panicking, finishing out quarters and a lot of things that we are hopefully trending toward. They are just so well-oiled and they aren’t changing anytime soon.’’

KEY STATISTIC: The Magic certainly had their issues defensively, but their offense was as good as it has been in any game – win or loss – this season. The 112 points tied for the third-most points that Orlando has scored in regulation this season, trailing only the 114 scored against the Lakers and the 113 scored against Milwaukee in a January victory. (The top four scoring Magic games of the season came in overtime games).

Orlando shot 47.9 percent against the rugged Spurs’ defense. Equally important, Orlando had 24 assists compared to just 10 turnovers. The Magic, which turned the ball over just twice in the first half, led by as many as seven points in the first half and were up by two at intermission. And Orlando was within four points of the lead with seven minutes to play before defensive woes ultimately did it in.

``That’s a really good team over there in that other locker room, but we did a good job of staying locked in even when they made their runs,’’ said forward Maurice Harkless, who had 12 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot. ``We had the lead, fell down and then came back again. So we played really well offensively.’’

RARE REST: Magic rookie guard Victor Oladipo was held out on Saturday night for a second straight game because of a sore left ankle. Oladipo likely could have played had the game had more riding on it, but he was kept out because the Magic don’t want a minor injury to turn into something more serious.

Oladipo traveled with the team to San Antonio, got in workouts Saturday morning and again before the game and sat on the bench in a blue suit and shiny red socks. He said that he is trying to ``learn with my eyes,’’ and admitted that missing games is something that is highly uncommon with him.

``I was a freshman in high school and I cracked my ankle. It’s been a long time,’’ Oladipo said when asked when the last time he missed a game because of an injury. ``But this happens when you play a lot of games, it happens in the game of basketball. I’m just taking it day by day and I can’t wait to get back out there.’’