The loss against the Knicks from March 17 was infuriating. It was the ultimate example of the Spurs not taking some games seriously and this season that lax approach was simply not cutting it. It was also a cause for concern at the time because when the Spurs tried to step on the gas pedal they didn't find answers. Nine wins later, I consider it the wake up call the team needed. Victories over playoff teams followed, but also the type of beatdowns against bad teams contenders dole out regularly.
The Magic never had a chance on Wednesday. For a brief stretch in the first quarter it looked like the Spurs were going to let them hang around, as the starters couldn't build a lead and the bench, which has had trouble breaking games open all season long, checked in. But the subs righted the ship and created a little separation. As the second quarter started, the lead reached double digits and the game was all but over. The Spurs led by as many as 25 with Tim Duncan playing only 12 minutes.
As meaningless as this game is in the grand scheme of things, it is encouraging to see the bench clicking late in the season after so many struggles. It's too early to tell if it will be a permanent change but Cory Joseph's replacing Patty Mills in the rotation has proved to be positive, with Joseph making up for his lack of range with physicality and energy. He will never match the type of impact Mills made on offense last season but he might be the best option right now, as Patty continues to struggle, finishing 1-for-4 from outside against Orlando.
As far as minute distribution goes, the night was as close to perfect as it gets. The starter that played the most was Tony Parker logging 22 minutes and Marco Belinelli led all Spurs with 30. Four subs finished with double digits in points while the Magic had to ride their top players for most of the game just to prevent the score from getting completely out of hand. Only sloppy play by San Antonio keeps overmatched teams close and the Spurs avoided it, finishing with just 11 turnovers. As the minutes went by in the third quarter it was clear the Magic had no intention of making a comeback to steal a game that meant nothing to them.
With the win, the Spurs clinched a playoff spot for the 18th straight season and are now two games away from the second seed in the West. A few weeks ago that seemed impossible but it turns out when they are healthy, the Spurs are still one of the best teams in the league. The Nuggets will visit the AT&T Center on Friday and then a brutal stretch that will include a home-and-home battle with the Rockets and a game with the Warriors will hopefully sharpen the Spurs for the postseason.
- There's really not much to take away from a game like this one. The Spurs won and no one got hurt, so it was a good night.
- Aron Baynes scored a career high 18 points on just 10 shots and continues to look like a good bench option for the postseason. It's very likely his minutes will be reduced in the playoffs as Pop shortens the rotation a bit and the team goes small for stretches but it's comforting to know the Big Banger can give the team some minutes if needed.
- Manu Ginobili hit three of his five three-pointers, which is a very good sign. At this point his whole game is dependent on that outside shot. If it falls, Manu contributes in the scoring department and it open things up for him to drive and kick. Manu shot 28 percent from outside in March. Hopefully he finds his touch in April.
- Boris Diaw finished the game with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists. In the last 10 games he's averaging 13 points on 52 percent shooting (40 percent from beyond the arc) with four rebounds and two and a half assists. He played so poorly early in the year that his off-season signing started to look like a mistake. But Diaw is waking up at the right time -- Robert Horry would be proud.
- Jacque Vaughn deserved to be fired because the team failed to improve under his leadership, but the Magic's roster is kind of a mess. Willie Green and Ben Gordon are signed for a combined $6 million and their biggest offseason addition, Channing Frye, is getting DNPs now. They have a young core and time to figure out who fits and who doesn't but they desperately need a rim protector and a defensive-minded wing.
The Spurs will face another team that is thinking about the offseason next, as the Nuggets visit San Antonio on Friday.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Orlando Pinstriped Post