The Orlando Magic have fallen a long ways since their 2009 Finals matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers. They surprised the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers by being the Eastern Conference representative that year, and matched up against the defending champs in LA. Coached by Stan Van Gundy, that Magic team was essentially Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and a bunch of three point shooters, which included J.J. Redick, Rashard Lewis and Courtney Lee. Rafer Alston played big minutes, and even though he played very well, having a 32 year old Rafer Alston play big minutes did not bode well for the Magic. Lewis and Turkoglu had great series, both the top two the Magic in scoring and distribution, while also helping Howard out on the boards. Unfortunately for them, the rest of the team was cold from the perimeter, as they only shot 33% in the series, a low number for a team that attempted 115 three pointers, nearly 30 more than the Lakers. They only made 6 more of these attempts than the Lakers. The Magic would go on to lose 4-1, in one of the most disappointing Finals series in a while.
That Magic team is no more, with Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu as the only remaining members from that 2009 squad (Turkoglu went to the Raptors, then was traded to the Suns and finally back to the Magic, who initially didn't want to give him a big contract due to his breakout playoffs performance, but are stuck with his metenolone body now). Rashard Lewis was traded to the Wizards and then left the team for greener pastures behind LeBron James' shadow, where the grass is still growing much healthier than in Orlando (even though it's the same state, go figure). J.J. Redick was traded this year to the Bucks after the Magic were scared of his departure in the offseason and wanted some form of compensation for his hard work and improvement in Orlando. The two remaining members (Turk-o-glue and Nelson) are both hurt and can't contribute. Newer additions that were supposed to help the team (Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo) are also hurt, leaving the team in the hands of young rookies and second year players like Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Moe Harkless and Andrew Nicholson. These players have been the diamonds in the VERY rough for the Magic, as Vucevic is amongst the top rebounders in the league, and the other three have shown flashes of great offensive talents. Jacque Vaughn obviously has a lot of lee-way and understanding with this squad, and with a lottery pick coming, is tasked with turning this once proud team back into playoff competitors. With his San Antonio Spurs background, I think he can pull it off.
Quote of The Game
"This isn't work here, what we do."
Sean Elliott on broadcasting Spurs games. It must be pretty fun to talk about the team you once played for. What a gig.
Quickie Game Hash
The Spurs were without the services of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard for this game, and would have to lean heavily on Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green. The game started out well for the Spurs, who jumped out to an early double digit lead, but would allow the Magic to get back in it with sloppy play. Actually, it was very sloppy in the first three quarters for both teams. Tiago Splitter came off the bench to supply a good amount of points and rebounds, falling a single rebound short of a double double. The Magic kept the game relatively close for the first half, and went down by 5 thanks to a late tap in by Boris Diaw as the buzzer sounded.
What kept the Magic in the game (other than they were playing our reserves) is their athleticism all over the floor. Vaughn also rode his starters nearly all game, with Vucevic, Harkless and Harris averaging nearly 40 minutes each, and having the box scores to prove it. That trio grabbed 30 of the 47 Magic total rebounds and scored 45 of their 85 points. It took them 53 attempts, so it wasn't their most efficient outing. The Magic were also deadly on the fast break, connecting on a great alley-lop from Harris to Harkless, who had another dunk in which he just slashed to the rim and rose for the follow. He's springy. With Timmy playing less than 14 minutes, it was up to Danny Green and Gary Neal (our streakiest shooters) to get us out of this one. The Magic got within four points in the middle of the third quarter, but a consistent showing from the Spurs (and bad decision making from the Magic) allowed San Antonio to ride out any attempted comebacks from Orlando. After an 11-0 run in the fourth, and a 17 point lead with less than four and a half minutes to go, the Spurs would hold on to win.
After an Icy showing against the Heat and Grizzlies, Mr. Verde came back to life, hitting 7-10 shots and 4-7 three pointers. This means he made all of his field goals inside the three point line! Is that a first?
As the newly appointed go-to guy for the star-less Magic, Harris was supposed to provide scoring punch and athleticism at the SG/SF spot. He attempted to shoot his way out of a slump, and could not, missing 14 of his 19 shots and 5 of 6 from deep. He filled out the box score, but his inefficient shooting made him the Runt against the Spurs.
Numbers of Note
- 22 - Total Free Throws attempted in the game. A low number, which allowed the game to go by very quickly. The game clocked in under two hours, rare for a basketball game nowadays.
- 53 - Rebounds by the Spurs, a +6 advantage against the Magic, who boast one of the best rebounders in the league. Impressive outing by Timmy, Diaw, Nando, Aron and Gary Neal, who all grabbed a decent amount of rebounds in their limited minutes.
- 20 - Rebounds from our guards, a great number considering Timmy and Tiago played less than thirty minutes combined.
- 18 - Fast break points by the Magic, which is what allowed them to stay in the game for so long. About half of the total turnovers by the Spurs were finished on the other end by a few streaking blue jerseys.
- 4 - Field goals for Matt Bonner, none of which were a three pointer. Not a typo.
- 4 - Runners/Floaters by Cory Joseph in this game. He hit all of his attempts, in his showing as Tony Parker-lite. While his floater isn't as pretty or refined, it is definitely effective.
- 26 - Assists by the Spurs, right around our season average, a good showing without our best players in tow.
Odds & Ends
- I have to comment on Cory Joseph's runners/floaters in the paint again. Those were some really nice plays (one with the clock running out), but I hope he's not a one-trick pony on the offensive end. I know he can hit the three ball, and can obviously hit the floater. But can he penetrate all the way to the rim for a layup? Check back next week on the continuing Adventures of the Canadian Longhorn!
- Aron Baynes was appropriately aggressive on the offensive side of things. He had a good dunk from a nice pass by Gary Neal and even had a baby hook shot that went in. I've seen Baynes shoot that before, it's an effective move for him.
- Gary Neal was in full-out shooter mode, taking shots early in the shot clock or deep behind the three point line, and making enough of them so that you didn't pull your hair out. Definitely a hate/love relationship.
- Moe Harkless definitely has the talent to be a top shooting guard/small forward. He can slash to the paint and drive at will, has great dunking ability, and a pretty good shot, but he doesn't have any discipline. Of course, this comes with being 19 and on a last place team that doesn't really have anyone else to shoot the ball. Might as well get all of those bad shots out of the way early, huh?
- The Magic have an intriguing young core of talent stored away in Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson, all under 23 years old. If Jacque Vaughn can develop this core, and the front office can keep them together, they can be a sneakily good team in the East very soon.
- I hope Danny is back on his 'Hot' streak, as we'll need a few 'Tar Heel Triples' from him against OKC. With Stephen Jackson and Manu hurt, he and Kawhi will see a lot of time against Kevin Durant.
Going into the Next Game the Spurs Need to...
...thank Pop for resting Tony, Timmy and Kawhi well this week in anticipation for a big game against OKC. If we beat them, we'll hold the tiebreaker in case of a tied record at the end of the season, and have that much more of a lead as the season dwindles down. The Silver and Black beat the Thunder in San Antonio without Tony Parker, now they'll face them in Oklahoma City without Manu. Which is a tougher task? Stay tuned.