Following a thrilling win over Dallas Sunday night, the Spurs maintained their momentum by blowing out Orlando 120-97 on the road. After losing a handful of games to lesser opponents over the past month, it was comforting to see the good guys take care of business and dominate a Magic team that has committed to a full rebuild and had lost five straight coming into this match.
The beginning of the game was some of the weirdest basketball I’ve watched all season. After a hot start from Wendell Carter Jr, both teams went into an offensive lull as the two sides traded some lazy shots in transition with no ball movement at all. Then Lonnie Walker IV caught fire and made three consecutive baskets, which spurred the good guys to an 18-0 run and maintain control for the rest of the game. However, the highlight — or more appropriately, lowlight — of the night came when Michael Carter-Williams missed four consecutive free throws and then tripped over himself while running back on defense. Orlando had gone seven minutes without scoring at that point, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard while watching basketball in my entire life.
San Antonio was on cruise control from that point on, as their lead ballooned to 20 and stayed there for the remainder of the game. The Spurs seemingly scored at will, fueled by efficient mid-range jumpers from DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray along with some easy baskets off cuts. Meanwhile, the Magic ran horns sets to try and get some open looks, but most of their possessions just ended with contested jumpers and missed shots. They also struggled on the boards to help create second chance opportunities; Orlando has been one of the worst rebounding teams in the league since the trade deadline, largely due to the void left behind by the Nikola Vucevic trade.
With the win all but guaranteed, Pop pulled the starters with about eight minutes left in the game and gave the depth players some run to end the night. Luka Samanic, Devin Vassell, and Trey Jones all got some extra minutes and played with tons of energy, as they ran hard in transition and created good ball movement through their unselfish passing. With that said, it was hard to truly evaluate their performance given the small sample size, but it’s still nice to see everyone on the team contribute to the victory.
The Spurs are now back to 0.500 on the season and just a game behind Memphis for the eighth seed in the west. With Golden State sputtering, San Antonio has a great opportunity to pull ahead and solidify a spot in the play-in tournament, so let’s hope that they can keep rolling against the Raptors on Wednesday.
- DeRozan played less than 26 minutes tonight due to the blowout, which is great to see considering he’s averaged almost 36 minutes over the past six games. No matter how you feel about him, DeRozan is still unquestionably the team’s best player, so the Spurs will need him to be fresh and healthy for the rest of the season if they hope to make the play-in tournament.
- Similarly, no player hit the 30 minute mark and the team high was a measly 28:14 set by Derrick White. The next month will be a war of attrition more than anything since San Antonio still has 20 games left and one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league. Any form of rest will greatly benefit this team, and I’d be curious to see whether Pop continues to evenly distribute the minutes during blowouts, even if the Spurs are the ones chasing the game.
- Drew Eubanks played an impressive game and notched the first double double of his career. It’s really interesting to see the similarities and differences between him and Poeltl, as both are non-shooting bigs who have different strengths due to the difference in their athleticism. Eubanks doesn’t provide the same paint presence as Poeltl does but is more comfortable with defending on the perimeter and is much more of a lob threat too. His free throw shooting is also vastly superior to Poeltl’s, so perhaps there’s a chance that he’ll close some games in the future.
- Rudy Gay and Walker IV combined for 24 points off the bench, and they’ll need to continue to provide consistent secondary scoring to help take some pressure off of the starters. As I mentioned above, Walker scored eight straight points in the first quarter which included back to back threes, and it’s nice to see him shoot with confidence. This is a great sign since opposing guards will be forced to close out on him, which could give him more runway to attack the basket.
- White scored 15 points on 7-14 shooting but only 1-6 from behind the arc. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like a large number of his threes are a few feet back from the line, so he’s making life more difficult for himself by launching from so far out. I honestly can’t remember if he’s done this in previous seasons or if it’s a recent trend, but it’s strange to see such a smart player take tough shots that are often heavily contested.
Next game: Vs. Raptors on Wednesday
Toronto has been struggling all season long so the Spurs will have a great opportunity to extend their win streak to three games on Wednesday night.