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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Orlando Magic

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NBA: Orlando Magic at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

With Christmas less than a week away, for fans of Spurs basketball, the greatest gift may have already arrived: this team is playing the best that it has all season. Over the course of this six-game home stand, San Antonio proved time and again that it has the chops to hang around in the thick of the Wild West playoff race.

Whoa! Pump the brakes, you’re saying to yourself. Yeah, the Philly win was nice, but did this guy miss the Bulls game where the Spurs choked away a 21-point lead like they had a chicken wing lodged in their throat?

Rebuttal: If I had told you two weeks ago that the Spurs would only drop one game out of the next six, you’d be elated. With apologies to the more puritanical PtR readers, it’s your classic “turd in the punch bowl” situation. In six games, the Spurs put together twenty-two good quarters out of a possible twenty-four. And for most of them, good is an understatement. We witnessed a revenge game in which the Spurs outgunned a Lakers team built for offense, proceeded to squelch the rest of its opponents by holding them each under 100 points despite struggling defensively all season, and then capped it off with a rollicking righting-of-the-ship against one of the Eastern Conference’s supposed elite teams.

Undeniably, this team is finding its rhythm, and we’ll see if the magic (I couldn’t help myself) will continue tonight in Orlando. The Magic themselves come into the game as Mexico’s favorite sons, having won both of their games (against Chicago and Utah) during their recent stint in the southern nation’s capital.

San Antonio Spurs (16-15) vs. Orlando Magic (14-15)

December 19, 2018 | 6:00 PM CT

Listen: WOAI | Watch: FSSW

Spurs injuries: Dejounte Murray (knee), Pau Gasol (foot)

Magic Injuries: Timofey Mozgov (knee)

It’s pronounced Da-vis

In that drubbing of Philly, it’s hard to not give the player of the game nod to Rudy Gay, who was an extremely efficient 10-15 shooting and gave us a flashback to his days as the offensive focal point of the Grit N’ Grind Grizzlies. That being said, it’s fan favorite Davis Bertans whose star shone brightest. As the deepest of draft-and-stash prospects when his rights were sent over in 2011 in the Kawhi-George Hill deal, Davis joined the Spurs in 2016 as a prototypical Euro-three-point specialist. His skills have grown steadily with each year, and on Monday, he gave us a glimpse of the full package. Whether it was dropping no-look dimes to Jakob Poeltl on drives or intelligently slipping screens for easy cuts to the basket, Davis is proving that he’s no longer a one trick pony.

Who’s the stretchier-four?

Though they may not look it, LaMarcus Aldridge and Magic center Nikola Vucevic are cut from the same hoops cloth. Both are offensively-gifted, face-up big men who have the power to operate within the paint but prefer to operate more so as rangey floor-spacers. Who wins the matchup will be a major determinant in the outcome of the game, but either way, we’re in for a battle.

The Breakdown

This Orlando team is weird if ultimately uninspiring. It appears that coach Steve Clifford took his brand of “good enough to get by, not good enough to mean anything” from Charlotte to Orlando. The same can be said about their players. Wings like Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, former Spur Jonathon Simmons, Evan Fournier, and Terrence Ross all have their bright spots, but none are particularly red alerts on the scouting report.

Now is the time for the Spurs to prove that they can take the show on the road and perform (particularly in regards to their defense) without the comforting cheers of the AT&T Center. I think they pull it off.


Vegas Line: Spurs by 3

Game Prediction: Spurs by 8

For the Magic fans’ perspective, visit Orlando Pinstriped Post.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.