Magic Run Out of Fuel in Second Half in Loss to Spurs

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

The Orlando Magic have featured 17 different starting lineups through their first 38 games. The latest included 22-year-old rookie Chuma Okeke, who made his first start of his NBA career in Friday’s 104-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The only player who has started in every game for the Magic this season is their two-time NBA All-Star, Nikola Vucevic, who finished with 26 points and nine rebounds in just three quarters of action.

Top Storyline

The Magic have had no problem getting off to good starts recently. An example of this came Friday when Orlando took a 13-point lead going into the second quarter. It’s been preserving that early momentum that’s been an issue. The Spurs, who took their first lead of the night with 2:46 left before halftime, outscored the Magic by 21 in the second quarter.

Key Stretch

Down just three midway through the third quarter, the Magic were unable to clamp down defensively in the final few minutes of that period. The Spurs went on an 18-9 run to seize full control. Patty Mills scored five of his 13 points during that stretch.

Injury Report

Cole Anthony (non-displaced fracture, right rib), Aaron Gordon (left ankle soreness), James Ennis III (sore left calf), Evan Fournier (strained left groin), Terrence Ross (sore left knee), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), and Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation) were all out for the Magic, while for the Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge (not with team) and DeMar DeRozan (personal reasons) didn’t play.

Key Stats

For the second straight game, turnovers were a big factor. The Magic coughed it up 19 times against the Spurs, six more than their season average. That enabled San Antonio to thrive in transition. The Spurs totaled 20 fast break points. The 77 points scored by Orlando was its lowest of the season.

Rookie Watch

In his first NBA start, Okeke recorded eight points, three rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. The 6-foot-8, 230-pounder has had to spend considerable time playing small forward, a position he’s less familiar with. Devin Vassell, the 11th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft out of Florida State, posted eight points for San Antonio.

Quote of the Night

“We played good enough defense tonight to win. Even last night, accept for the bad fouls on Jimmy Butler, that would have been a top ten defensive game last night. You take away five points last night against Miami, whose offense is getting better and better, that would have been a top ten defensive game. Tonight, even though in the end it got away from us, through three quarters this was probably a top ten defensive game. We’re capable of playing better and that’s what we need to focus on.” – Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford

Up Next

The Magic head back home to face the Miami Heat on Sunday at 7 p.m. The Sunshine State rivals just met on Thursday at American Airlines Arena, with the Heat prevailing 111-103. Vucevic led Orlando in that contest with 24 points and 17 rebounds, while Jimmy Butler posted 27 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists for the reigning Eastern Conference champs. Miami, which defeated Chicago on Friday, has won nine of its last 10 games.

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