Tim Duncan returned after missing eight straight with right knee soreness, but this time it was a different future Hall of Famer that sat out of the starting line-up; Tony Parker. Parker suffered an ankle injury on Tuesday night against Miami, and Ray McCallum took his spot.
Missed shot, missed shot, turnover, missed shot, missed shot, missed shot - This is how the Spurs began the game offensively in Orlando. Luckily, the Magic opened the game missing five of their first six shots, which just made for a painful start to this one.
Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge were able to save the Spurs in the first, going a combined 8-for-12 while the rest of the Spurs went 0-for-5 in the first nine minutes. They had 18 of San Antonio's first 20 points when SA took the lead late in the quarter.
Patty Mills was the first Spur not named LaMarcus or Kawhi to make a field goal with just over a minute left to play in the first. If you're thinking that that doesn't sound ideal, you're correct. But SA hit 11 of the their last 12 shots and had a 29-23 lead going into the second, thanks to a running buzzer-beating long two from Mills to end the quarter.
After an eight point lead, the Magic tied the game up halfway through the second. The Spurs were a step slow defensively, but Kawhi continued to carve up the Magic on offense. The Spurs capitalized on Kawhi's size advantage against his defenders, whether it be Victor Oladipo or Evan Fournier, and Orlando had no answer.
The Spurs had a 10 point lead. Then, I blinked. The Magic went on an 11-0 run to close out the half and ended up leading 51-50 at the break. Orlando did a great job moving the ball and finding open guys in that second quarter, and had 15 assists on 21 makes.
The Magic went on an 8-0 run in the third to take a five point lead. San Antonio's defense just couldn't keep up with Orlando's pace. Fournier had 10 in the quarter getting some very easy looks. The Spurs also fell cold again on the offensive end, and the deficit reached double digits. SA went into the fourth down 79-67.
After falling down as many as 14, Kawhi led a surge to get the Spurs back into the game. A 10-2 run from SA cut the lead to just three, and it made for an intense finish in Orlando.
The Spurs struggled to get passed the three point deficit for what seemed like forever as the time winded down in the fourth quarter, and it was incredible that SA was still in the game. A couple of free throws from LaMarcus made it a one point game with a minute and a half to go. Danny Green then came up with huge block on the other end, and then it was Aldridge again with a jumper to give the Spurs the one-point lead.
Patty made a huge defensive play with a deflection on the inbound pass on the Magics' next posession that led to a steal and two free throws for Kawhi, and then Aldridge made a block down on the other end, followed by ANOTHER block by Rasual Butler after that. The Spurs really locked down defensively in the final 90 seconds or so.
Or, so I thought.
Fournier nailed a corner three to tie the game. The Spurs had the ball, 93-93, with 13.3 seconds to go, and called a time-out.
Kawhi Leonard dribbled the time down, sized up Aaron Gordon, crossed over, and hit the jumper with the hand in his face.
Kawhi. So. Clutch. pic.twitter.com/jKx53SScsM— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 11, 2016
The Spurs win thanks to a cold-blooded game-winner from your first time All-Star, Kawhi Leonard. 95-93. Kawhi finished with 29 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block.
The Spurs go into the All Star break with a 45-8 record, which is the best start through 53 games in franchise history.