San Antonio Spurs @ Orlando MagicAmway Center, Orlando Florida
November 29, 2013, 6:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
After weeks of smooth sailing, the Spurs ran into stormy conditions in Oklahoma City, as they had an off-night against arguably the co-favorites in the Western Conference. The resulting loss snapped an 11-game winning-streak for San Antonio the day before Thanksgiving. Despite the road loss, the Spurs remain 13-2 with plenty to be thankful for, like a game the team should win on the road against a depleted Orlando Magic team.
The Magic aren't an overly-impressive team on paper, but at 6-9 and with only a negative 0.5 point differential on the season, Orlando is not a team to be taken lightly. Jacque Vaughn's squad is on its own two-game winning streak, including a win over Philadelphia on Wednesday. In that game, center Nikola Vucevic led the way with 21 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He received late help from Arron Afflalo and consistent play from rookie shooting guard Victor Oladipo. Unfortunately for the Magic, starting point guard Jameer Nelson went down with a sprained ankle and may miss time moving forward.
The loss of Nelson is a problem for a Magic team with a light bench. In the Wednesday win over Philadelphia, Orlando had just three players off of the bench record over 15 minutes of game action, and one of those players was point guard E'Twaun Moore who took over duties for an injured Nelson midway through the second quarter. Outside of the starters, the Magic rely on Andrew Nicholson down low and Maurice Harkless on the wing off of the bench and with Nelson possibly missing time that eliminates one more player from the rotation, forcing Ronnie Price into more playing time in the near future.
Orlando's middle-of-the-pack record is shown in its middle-of-the-pack stats. At 99.6 points scored per game, the Magic rank 16th in the league. Orlando ranks 21st in points allowed, 13th in rebounding and 15th in assists per game. Six players average over double figures for Orlando, including Nelson. Glen Davis has been a bright spot over the past week-and-a-half, scoring 16 points in his second start of the season after missing the first 11 games due to a broken bone in his left foot. He's averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds since returning while Nicholson is adding 10 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in 19.5 minutes a game off of the bench. Jason Maxiell plays scarcely off of the bench, putting a lot of pressure on Vucevic to carry the load down low.
It will be interesting to see how Orlando reacts to Nelson being out of the lineup if he misses the game completely or is limited in any way because Orlando doesn't have the bench to play an up-tempo style for an entire game and without Nelson it might not have the floor general to execute the offense in a contest that becomes a battle in the half-court. Orlando only had 26 bench points in the win over Philadelphia and seven of those disappear if Moore starts in place of Nelson tonight against the Spurs.
Orlando started and ended the game well against Philadelphia, but when the 76ers were able to run the second unit out, the Magic had no answer. One of San Antonio's best attributes is its ability to throw different lineups on the court at different times. Orlando is very limited in how it can adjust throughout the game because guys like Davis, Vucevic, Afflalo and Oladipo find themselves on the floor for 35+ minutes a game. Even Moore recorded 30 minutes off of the bench against Philadelphia and Nelson didn't get hurt until midway through the second quarter.
Afflalo and Oladipo are capable of scoring in bunches in the lane and on the perimeter as the two start to build chemistry, but Nelson being hobbled or out of the lineup will eliminate a lot of the flow the Magic have played with during stretches this season. Orlando just doesn't have the firepower to stay with a dialed-in San Antonio squad.
And for this San Antonio team that really becomes the question throughout the season against inferior competition: How dialed in will the Spurs be for 48 minutes? If San Antonio comes off of the turkey and wine coma focused to start a new winning streak, then Orlando doesn't have much of a chance. A poor performance by San Antonio, however, could result in the first losing streak of the young season.
Matchup to watch: Tiago Splitter was signed to a big contract for matchups like this against centers the caliber of Vucevic. The Spurs won't need Splitter's offense to beat the Magic, but they'll count on Splitter to guard Vucevic without help in order to stay on the shooters. If Splitter can keep the Montenegrin big man off rhythm and off of the offensive glass, the Spurs guards will win this game down the stretch.
Magic perspective can be found here: Orlando Pinstriped Post
Game Prediction: Spurs by 12.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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