ORLANDO – Even though Saturday’s win was just a preseason game, recording 18 steals is rather noteworthy considering that’s a rare occurrence. Only five times in 2018-19 did a team come up with at least that many. The Raptors, who ultimately won the championship, did it twice, while the Heat, Nuggets and Suns each did it once.
The Magic, the tallest team in the NBA going into the 2019-20 season, have a chance to be one of the best defensive teams. Their length, versatility and discipline was conspicuous in their victory over the Spurs.
San Antonio, which finished with the second best team field goal percentage last season, was held to 89 points and 39.3 percent shooting. The Spurs also committed 24 turnovers. The most they had in a game all of last season was 18.
Orlando’s point guards – D.J. Augustin, Markelle Fultz and Michael Carter-Williams – combined for 10 steals, while newcomer Al-Farouq Aminu had two.
It’s unusual to see a team with this many elite defenders. While there are several other really good defensive squads in the league – notably the Clippers, Jazz, Sixers and Bucks – it’s not out of the question that the Magic will be the best in this department when all is said and done.
From Jan. 31 until the end of last year’s regular season, the Magic had the NBA’s best defensive rating. They also were one of only two teams – Milwaukee being the other – who ranked in the top 10 for the entire year in all four of the league’s miscellaneous defensive categories, which includes opponent points in the paint, opponent points off turnovers, opponent second chance points and opponent fast break points.