Postgame Report: Magic vs. Spurs (3/8/14)

By John Denton
March 8, 2014

SAN ANTONIO – Executing well offensively and holding their own on the defensive end of the floor, the Orlando Magic were every bit the equals of the San Antonio Spurs for most of three quarters on Saturday night.

Up two at the half and within four points with seven minutes to play, the Magic put themselves in position to potentially stun the surging Spurs by getting offensive contributions up and down the roster.

However, a few untimely late turnovers and too many fouls that put the Spurs on the free throw line again and again ultimately proved to ruin an otherwise promising night for a Magic team that fell 121-112 to San Antonio at the AT&T Center.

The final score was hardly indicative of how tight the game was most of the night before the veteran Spurs calmly pulled away late behind the 30 points from Tony Parker and 24 points from Maun Ginobili. San Antonio outscored Orlando 33-29 in the fourth quarter.

``This is one of those games where I didn’t even pick up a stat sheet because the stats don’t matter. I saw the way our group played,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``They played together, they played with resilience, when they were up and when they were down. We played together and got mentally tougher tonight. Great things came from this game. We didn’t win, but probably one of our better road games of the year. So we’re getting better.’’

There was plenty for the Magic (19-45) to be proud of in a game where they fought hard against one of the hottest teams in the NBA. San Antonio (46-16) routed Miami on Thursday and has won six games in a row.

Center Nikola Vucevic played well throughout and finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Tobias Harris responded to being moved into a reserve role by scoring 23 points on efficient 11 of 16 shooting. Maurice Harkless, who is in his best stretch of basketball in two seasons, chipped in 12 points and 10 rebounds.

``I’m pretty happy with how we played offensively, but defensively we could have done a better job,’’ said Vucevic, who made half of his 16 shots and grabbed three of his 13 rebounds on the offensive glass. ``They got a lot of easy points. They have a good team and they’ve been playing together so long that a lot of stuff is automatic for them. I thought we could have done a better job defensively because they still scored (121) points.’’

Orlando was once again without standout rookie Victor Oladipo, who was held out of his second straight game because of a sore left ankle. Oladipo said Wednesday’s game against Houston was the first he’s missed because of injury since he was a freshman in high school.

The Magic will be back in action on Monday night when they play the Bucks in Milwaukee. Orlando lost in Milwaukee in the first game after the NBA All-Star break, but it leads the season series 2-1.

Parker scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and the Spurs got to the free throw line 16 times (with 12 makes) in the final period. For the game, San Antonio made 26 of 35 free throws compared to the Magic hitting 13 of 17.

For a second straight game, Orlando saw a strong first-half performance and a lead at the intermission wither away in the third quarter. Orlando led Houston 48-41 at the break on Wednesday only to surrender a 34-17 third quarter. On Saturday, the Magic saw their two-point spread at the half devolve into a five-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter.

Orlando stayed with the Spurs throughout the first half and actually led by as many as seven points late in the second quarter. And when Arron Afflalo scooped up a loose ball and drilled a running 3-pointer at the horn, the Magic took a surprising 61-59 lead into intermission.

Said Harkless: ``We were real confident coming into the locker room at halftime. But there are two halves to a game. We didn’t do in the second half what we did in the beginning of the game. We have to learn how to put it together for a full game.’’

Vucevic had his way inside against the Spurs’ towering front line by scoring 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the first half. Tobias Harris, who was moved into a sixth man role so that Kyle O’Quinn could make his first start of the season, was aggressive and seeking out shots in a 13-point first half. Harris was emotional following a poor performance on Wednesday against Houston and vowed that he would play much better Saturday against the Spurs.

``The tempo was there for me and I wanted to be aggressive for my team,’’ Harris said. ``I wanted to be a spark for us. I thought I did a pretty good job of taking what was there. All around it was a good offensive game for us. We got into our stuff and able to execute and make shots. We can learn from this game. We played a pretty good game, but toward the end things didn’t go our way.’’