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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic

The Spurs will take on the Magic on the second game of the back-to-back.

NBA: Preseason-Orlando Magic at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs are in the middle of a strange scheduling stretch. After losing to the Pelicans on Thursday, they will play the Magic at the tail end of a back-to-back on Friday before having two days off for the holidays before embarking on another back-to-back set. On the one hand, the games on consecutive nights will test San Antonio’s depth. On the other, the two days of rest could help them get everyone back healthy to face the last days of 2022 with a full roster and prepare for 2023 with more certainties.

The Magic’s record could fool some into thinking it could be an even battle, but Orlando is coming off seven wins in their last eight games, in which they’ve taken out some heavyweights, and rank top 10 in net rating in December. Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner have been fantastic and they have been getting good minutes from most of their rotation players. Wendell Carter Jr. could be back against San Antonio as well, bolstering Orlando’s frontcourt depth. Facing the Magic on the road could be a tough test for the young Spurs.

San Antonio Spurs (10-21) at Orlando Magic (12-21)

December 23, 2022 | 6:00 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs (subject to change): Dominick Barlow (Out — Two-Way), Keldon Johnson (Doubtful — Hamstring), Blake Wesley (Doubtful — Injury recovery).

Magic: Jalen Suggs (Out — Ankle), Jonathan Isaac (Out — Injury recovery), Chuma Okeke (Out — Knee surgery), Gary Harris (Questionable — Hamstring), Wendell Carter Jr. (Questionable — Foot).

What to watch for:

The duel of the rookie forwards. Paolo Banchero was picked No. 1 overall in the 2022 draft because of his advanced offense and go-to scoring potential. Jeremy Sochan went in the top 10 because of his defensive instincts and intensity. Now two of the most promising forwards in their class will go against each other for the first time. Banchero has been as good as advertised, averaging 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists for a Magic team that seems to have found its superstar. Sochan’s numbers are not nearly as impressive, but he has shown flashes of defensive potential that give Spurs’ fans hopes that he could turn into a centerpiece and is coming off a standout offensive performance. The head-to-head matchup could be really fun to watch. Can Sochan slow down the at this point runaway rookie of the year or will he struggle with Banchero’s physicality and craftiness? Either way, it will be interesting to watch how things unfold.

Can the Spurs continue to dominate the East? San Antonio is 4-18 against the West but 6-3 against the East this season, which is insane. What’s even crazier is that some of those wins have come against teams that were considered contenders at the start of the year, like the 76ers and Heat, and some that very much still are, like the Cavaliers and Bucks. It’s tempting to cling to narratives about the East simply being weaker, but there are only five Western teams that have a positive record against the other conference and your 10-21 Spurs are one of them. Does this curious fact mean anything when it comes to predicting a win against the Magic? Not really, since every game is different and despite having some good wins against Eastern teams the Spurs also have losses against the dreadful Hornets and the under .500 Raptors, but it would be a fun subplot if San Antonio could continue to dominate the East.

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

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