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What We Learned from the Spurs win over the Magic

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San Antonio takes care of a miserable Magic ball club on the road.

San Antonio Spurs v Orlando Magic Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

The Spurs trampled a lottery-bound Orlando squad in the penultimate matchup of their five-game road trip, taking care of business early so their youngster could get extended run in garbage time. San Antonio jumped out in front by double-digits in the first quarter, and the incredibly young Magic never put up enough resistance to close the gap to a respectable margin.

It was an all-around team victory that saw ten or more points from Drew Eubanks, Lonnie Walker IV, Rudy Gay, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and Demar DeRozan. All 14 players who got into the game for San Antonio scored, and the Spurs won the battle from beyond the arc for the first time in nearly three weeks as they doubled Orlando’s three-point output, 10-5.

After losing the first two contests of their roadie and falling two games below .500 for the first time since January, the Silver and Black finally broke even and are now within arm’s reach of reclaiming the eighth seed. But with the second-toughest remaining schedule, it’ll be an uphill battle to catch the Memphis Grizzlies in a tight Western Conference play-in race.

Observations

  • Fans have every right to be excited about last night’s win, but don’t read too much into the Spurs blowing out what might be the worst team in the NBA at the moment. The Magic are winless over their last six outings and are losing by an average margin of 22.7 points per game during this span. Although Orlando put forth a valiant effort to remain competitive after moving the trio of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier at the trade deadline, they’re beginning to hit rock bottom. And when Michael Carter-Williams and Terrence Ross are arguably the best players on your roster, there’s little doubt about the final result on most nights. San Antonio lucked into the fortunate position of facing a downtrodden team, who too was on a SEGABABA, and they must put away beatable opponents if they want to hold onto to one of the four Western Conference play-in spots. Thankfully, the Silver and Black draw the tanking Toronto Raptors in the final stop of their five-game excursion, which should only help their cause.
  • A bit of a no-brainer, but San Antonio is at their best when they share the ball, cut down on turnovers, and dial in on the defensive end. Orlando is admittedly atrocious, but the Spurs could have come out unfocused and dropped another winnable game. And with losses to the Kings, Cavaliers, Rockets, Thunder, and Timberwolves this season, it wouldn’t have been all that shocking if the Magic snuck away with a dub on Monday night. While that possibility started to look like a reality after Orlando took a 9-3 lead three minutes into the contest, the good guys quickly turned things around with an 18-0 run to secure a double-digit first-quarter cushion. The Silver and Black ended the evening with 30 assists and just nine turnovers while holding the Magic under 100 points on 45% shooting. Those numbers are easier to obtain against a fringe NBA organization like Orlando. But if San Antonio can replicate that sort of production, they might have a shot at clinching a playoff appearance in 2021.
  • Devin Vassell has been a staple of San Antonio’s rotation all season long, but after three minutes on Friday, a DNP on Sunday, and a ten-minute stint on Monday, it looks like the rookie wing might be in Gregg Popovich’s doghouse. A few reporters speculated Devin’s DNP versus the Nuggets was a sign Pop was keeping young legs fresh so the veterans could rest up against the lowly Magic, but that didn’t appear to be the case once the game got rolling. Vassell didn’t enter the game until midway through the second quarter and promptly returned to the bench after bricking a three-pointer and picking up a personal foul. The first-rounder rejoined the action in garbage time, and that may be a trend until he shows some more consistency on the offensive end. I doubt my opinion matters much to PATFO, but finding regular minutes for their first lottery pick in more than two decades should be among their top priorities, especially seeing as he figures to play a significant role in the future of this franchise.
  • Moving on to a more positive topic. How about Lonnie Walker IV? The third-year two-guard has made a noticeable difference off the bench since returning from a lengthy wrist rehab, and the Spurs are 2-1 with him back in the lineup. His presence isn’t the sole reason for San Antonio’s recent success, though it has allowed everyone to return to their usual roles. And El Cuatro adds another dynamic to the offense with the threat of his three-point shooting, blow-by speed, and above-the-rim leaping ability. Lonnie looks about as well-rested as one can be at this point in the season and has averaged 11.0 points per game on splendid 50/50/86 shooting splits over the last three contests. Walker’s efficiency may stand out, but it’s his volume in limited minutes (19.3 MPG) that hops off the stat sheet. The Miami alumnus is posting 20.5 points per 36 minutes since leaving the injury report, which is his third-best three-game stretch this season. The sample size is small, and Lonnie could always taper off down the final leg of San Antonio’s schedule. However, that 31-point outburst before his nine-game absence seems to have given him the confidence to be more aggressive than ever before.