Magic Fall to Spurs on Opening Night
All 10 available Orlando Magic players played double-digit minutes in Wednesday’s opener at San Antonio. Although depth is something they feel will help them in the long run, especially once they are at full strength, on this night it was the Spurs who were the sharper, more energetic team. The Magic were unable to stay in rhythm after a hot start, falling 123-97 at the AT&T Center.
Mo Bamba did a little bit of everything in the opener. He made six of his eight shot attempts, including three from 3-point range, and finished with a team-high 18 points. His passing, not something he’s really known for, was sharp, dishing out four assists. No surprise, but he made it tough for the Spurs to score at the rim when he was on the floor, swatting away four shots and altering a few others.
For the first time in Magic history, a pair of rookies were in the starting lineup on opening night. Starting in place of Gary Harris, who was a late scratch because of hamstring tightness, Suggs posted 10 points in his NBA regular season debut. Franz Wagner, meanwhile, tallied 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in his. The last Orlando rookie to start in an opener was Elfrid Payton on Oct. 28, 2014 against the New Orleans Pelicans. Other notable Magic rookies who started on opening night include Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and Dwight Howard.
Protecting the paint was something the Magic did better than every other team during the preseason. With their length and versatility, this is something they should excel at throughout the year. It didn’t quite show in the opener, however, as the Spurs totaled 56 points in the paint, many of which came in transition (Spurs scored 26 fast break points) or off second-chance opportunities (Spurs had 13 offensive rebounds). Also costly was Orlando’s 16 turnovers, which led to 21 San Antonio points.
For the Magic, Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Harris (right hamstring management), E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) and Chuma Okeke (right hip; bone bruise) were out. Devontae Cacok (not with team) and Zach Collins (left ankle; stress fracture) were unavailable for the Spurs.
Weird to even say it, but the Spurs appear to be embarking on a rebuilding project. San Antonio finally decided it was best for their franchise to go at least partially in on a youth movement. As is the case with the Magic, there are many promising young players developing in the Alamo City. Among them are 18-year-old Josh Primo, their 12th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and Keldon Johnson, just 22 and already an Olympic gold medalist having competed on Team USA in Tokyo this past summer. They did bring back Bryn Forbes, a member of last season’s championship Bucks team, and added Doug McDermott and Thaddeus Young, two other proven veterans.
Quote of the Night
“There’s nerves, there’s butterflies. But in a sense, it was just a basketball game. I was ready to go out and play. We had talked early I wouldn’t be starting, and then we talked that I would be starting. But that didn’t throw off my mindset of what I went in there trying to do, trying to accomplish, trying to bring. Just my energy, my effort, my defense, and hustle. I think I did those things tonight. Shots are going to fall. Just kind of got to stay the course.” – Suggs
The Magic will play their home opener on Friday at 7 p.m. against the New York Knicks. This will be the first of two straight games against the Knicks, with the second meeting taking place at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. A big surprise last season, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference standings before losing in five games to the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round of the playoffs, the Knicks have high hopes this year of making even more strides. Signing Kemba Walker and former Magic player Evan Fournier in the offseason gives New York more scoring power. If their young talent, notably RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, improve as they should, the Knicks could be a tough out in the postseason. New York defeated the Boston Celtics in double overtime in their opener on Wednesday. Julius Randle, last season’s Most Improved Player, registered 35 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, while Fournier scored 32 points.