The Spurs fell short of a comeback in their return from the Rodeo Road Trip on Wednesday night and now find themselves 2-7 in their last nine games. San Antonio sits at 11th place in the Western Conference with little hope to secure a postseason berth, but the Orlando Magic might provide an opportunity to spark a run to re-enter the playoff race.
The good guys let a 16 point lead slip out of their hands in a close loss to Orlando in their first meeting in mid-November, but the central Florida franchise will be without a couple of key players. Serious knee injuries sidelined Al-Farouq Aminu and Jonathan Isaac for the rest of the season, and the Spurs are hoping for LaMarcus Aldridge to suit up for this one.
Though both organizations’ sub .500 records speak for themselves, each team rosters enough talent to give anyone a run for their money on any given evening. San Antonio is spiraling towards the lottery while Orlando clings to the eighth seed in a top-heavy Eastern Conference, and this should be an interesting matchup between two vastly different clubs.
San Antonio Spurs (24-33) versus Orlando Magic (26-32)
February 29, 2020 | 7:30 PM CT
Watch: KENS5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: LaMarcus Aldridge (Shoulder - Day-to-Day)
Magic Injuries: Al-Farouq Aminu (Knee - Out), Jonathan Isaac (Knee - Out)
Stopping Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier
Aaron Gordon has been on an offensive tear over his last five appearances averaging 22.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game on ridiculous 54-61-90 shooting splits. The Magic have enjoyed a 4-1 record amid his impressive hot streak, but the high-flying forward hasn’t carried Orlando on his own.
His teammates Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic have been equally effective, combining for another 44.2 points and 7.6 assists per game. The trio isn’t the most highly regarded big three in the league, though they are quickly putting distance between themselves and the ninth-place Washington Wizards with a quarter of the season left to play.
An amalgamation of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, and Jakob Poeltl seem like the best candidates to slow down Gordon, Fournier, and Vucevic. With that in mind, don’t count on the latter half of the young core finding heavy minutes if they can’t bring consistency on both ends of the floor.
Cracking Orlando’s Defensive Code
The Magic have been a surprisingly sturdy defensive squad despite the loss of Defensive Player of the Year hopeful Jonathan Isaac and the always solid Al-Farouq Aminu. Orlando lays claim to the league lead for fewest points allowed per game, and they’re top-five in steals and blocks.
While they excel at maintaining a low-scoring contest, the Magic are one of the worst three-point defenses in the NBA, conceding 12.2 triples per game on 36.7% from beyond the arc. Although they have trouble containing perimeter shooters, Orlando does an exceptional job of defending without fouling.
Opponents average the third-fewest free throw attempts per game (18.8 FTA) when facing the Magic, and they successfully convert their chances at the charity stripe at exactly league average (77.1%). The Silver and Black have some problems getting to the line as it is, so don’t look for Orlando to bail them out with silly fouls.
Can Dejounte Murray Rediscover his Form?
There was a four-game stretch during the Rodeo Road Trip where Dejounte Murray legitimately looked like an All-Star caliber point guard. From Sacramento to Utah, the 23-year-old floor general posted per-game averages of 19.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists with unbelievably efficient 60-71-93 shooting splits.
Murray also racked up 17 deflections and 9 steals while committing just 2 turnovers in 122 minutes of action over that timeframe. Everything seemed to be clicking on both sides of the ball for the All-NBA defender, which is what makes his sudden two-game slump especially disheartening.
Dejounte has only scored 8 points on 3-of-20 shooting in his last two contests, and the fourth-year pro has genuinely appeared out of sync. Consistency is always a major struggle for young players, but one great outing could be enough to break San Antonio’s starting point guard out of his funk.
For the Magic fan’s 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.