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Game Recap: Spurs Survive Dwight Howard and the Magic, get First Road Win

After a brutal loss against Miami, the Spurs finally got a road win but they sure had to fight for it. Playing their second game of a back-to-back against a Magic team on their third game in three nights and missing Hedo Turkoglu, the Spurs were able to outlast the home team en route to an 85-83 overtime win. Both teams seemed exhausted in the first quarter but somehow managed to conjure enough strength to play 53 minutes of ugly but intense basketball. Tony Parker led all players with 25 points and Dwight Howard had a monster game with 24 points and 25 rebounds. Quarter-by-quarter analysis after the jump.

First Quarter

The Spurs started the game slowly and allowed the Magic to jump to an early lead, based on good offensive rebounding. Both Blair and Duncan struggled to box out Dwight Howard, which resulted in the Magic's Center dominating the glass with 10 first quarter rebounds, 4 of which were offensive.

The Spurs didn't seem to find their footing offensively either throughout the quarter, partially because of Orlando's good job of closing out on shooters (only 2 3-point attempts by the Spurs in the quarter) and partially because of tired legs. Tony Parker in particular seemed both mentally and physically exhausted to start the game, missing his first three shots and being replaced by Cory Joseph with 5:09 minutes to go. Only 13 points for the Spurs on the first, which was not surprising considering the lack of ball movement and Parker's ineffectiveness.

Second Quarter

After finishing the 1st down by 6 and not looking particularly sharp, it looked like the Spurs were going to be fighting from behind the whole night. Bad shooting nights from the Magic's snipers and the impressive play from DeJuan Blair and especially Tiago Splitter helped keep Orlando from building a bigger lead. Splitter showed off some of his post moves and Blair kept attacking Ryan Anderson (AKA Matt Bonner 3.0) on the block. Together they combined for 16 of the Spurs' 37 points and 10 of the team's 18 boards.

Coach Pop deserves some credit too for getting creative in this quarter and trotting out a small ball lineup that upped the defensive intensity of the squad and would go on to be the key to winning the game. After two quarters of ugly offense (Spurs FG% was.405 and Magic's was .349), the Spurs trailed only by 3 (24-21) in spite of having allowed 10 offensive rebounds and losing the rebound battle by 12.

Third Quarter

With Tony Parker still struggling from the field and Richard Jefferson pulling a disappearing act, it was on Tim Duncan's shoulders to right the ship. Big Fun started going at Howard aggressively on offense which seemed to bother the Magic's center but didn't stop him from getting his on offense (10 3rd quarter points). Duncan's 8 3rd quarter points coupled with good team defense and better ball movement were enough for the Spurs to hang around and get a chance to win it in the 4th.

After resting for a while, Tony Parker started to show signs of what he was going to do later on, with 2 assists and 3 points in the last 3 minutes of the quarter. The Spurs went into the 4th down only 1 point despite not playing particularly well. It was clear that both teams were tired from the grueling schedule.

Fourth Quarter

The majority of this quarter was The Tony Parker Show. The Wee Frenchman was the Spurs offense for long stretches and single-handedly got the Spurs the lead. Tony scored 14 of the team's 16 points to start the quarter with the other two coming from a Bonner layup assisted by him. His play in the 4th more than made up for his struggles earlier. When his jumper is falling, Tony becomes nearly unstoppable.

Unfortunately, late game execution doesn't seem to be this team's strong suit and after back-to-back turnovers, Reddick tied the game at 73 with 4 consecutive points.
Duncan answered with a hook shot to give the Spurs back the lead but Reddick drew another foul and tied the game again. After a missed Tony Parker jumper, the game went to overtime. It seemed like the Spurs had squandered their chance and Orlando was going to take this one.


The OT was weird. Parker and Reddick traded baskets, followed by a Jefferson runner and a jump shot by Duncan, timely answered with two monster put-back dunks by Howard. It seemed like neither team had the strength to get a decisive lead, until Gary Neal hit a dagger three with 28.2 seconds to go. The Spurs were 1-16 from 3 at the time and Neal was 0-4 himself from deep. But as we've learned, The Nail thrives under pressure.

It was looking good for the Spurs who were up by 3, but Danny Green, in a moment of stupidity, fouled Von Wafer when he was driving for a layup. Wafer hit the layup and got the And-1 call. It seemed like we were destined to go to a second OT but Wafer missed the free throw and Kawhi Leonard was able to secure the rebound and call for a timeout. Jefferson was fouled on the inbound play (which almost resulted in another costly turnover) and hit one of two from the line. Ryan Anderson missed the game-winning 3 and the Spurs had won their first game in the road.

Random thoughts:

  • Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green took turns guarding Jameer Nelson for the majority of the game and the results were great. Nelson was 2-16 from the field and was a non-factor. I'm sure some of that has to do with exhaustion, but still. It also allowed Tony Parker to save his strength, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see this more often.
  • The Spurs went small in the second and would go on to play with only one big man for almost all of the 4th quarter and overtime. It worked because it allowed the team to rotate faster after double-teaming Howard and switch without creating mismatches.
  • Pop went to a zone defense at times. We haven't seen much of it this season from the Spurs but I think it's a good weapon to have on your arsenal.
  • I was surprised by the DNP-CD for James Anderson considering the shooting woes of both Neal (1-5) and Green (0-5). Pop seems to be valuing defense above all. Can't say I disagree.
  • The Spurs were lucky Ryan Anderson (this year's MIP?) missed open shots from 3. Anderson boasts a 3pt % of 42.9. He was 1-6 from deep tonight. Again, tired legs.
  • Dwight Howard had 24 points in 15 shots and 25 rebounds (9 off), but it wasn't enough. Except for Wafer, Reddick and Anderson, the Magic role players didn't have a good game.
  • Pop was smart with his Hack-a-Howard strategy. The Spurs fouled him with less than a minute to go in the second quarter. Howard missed 1 of 2 in both trips to the line. Then they fouled him in the 3rd quarter and he hit both free throws. They wouldn't foul him a second time.
  • Larry Hughes is still an NBA player for some reason.
  • Danny Green plays good, aggressive help defense. He was only credited for 1 block, but he probably got his hands on at least one more shot, in addition to saving the game by delaying JJ Redick's three-point attempt that would have saved the game if it had been before the buzzer.
  • If you need a reason to believe RJ is not the same guy he was for the last two seasons, look no further: he played PF for stretches last night without looking out of place, confused or disinterested.

Three Stars

3 - Tiago Splitter. Sparkles helped keep the team alive in the second quarter and keeps showing improvement on offense. 10 points and 6 boards for him in only 18 minutes.

2 - Tim Duncan. Timmy looked tired at times but picked up the slack in the 3rd, going toe-to-toe with Howard and showing leadership after a bad loss. 17 points and 10 boards for Big Fun.

3 - Tony Parker. Tony struggle early but came through when he was most needed and gave a fantastic 4th quarter performance. The Spurs would not have won this one without Tony. 25 points 9 assists and 7 boards for him.

It wasn't pretty but the Spurs have finally won on the road. I wouldn't make much of this game considering the Magic were playing their third game in three nights, but you can only play the teams they put in front of you and after the debacle in Miami the team needed a win.
Up next, the Kings on Friday. Let's get a streak going.