For almost three quarters, the Spurs vs. Magic looked like a game between two relatively even teams lurking in the same part of the standings, with 10 lead changes and both teams responding every time the other went on a run. However, for the final sixteen-plus minutes, the Magic got red hot from three and looked more like a team that had won seven of their last eight games, while the Spurs looked like a tired team on a SEGABABA still trying to figure things out on the way to a 113-133 blowout loss.
After a disastrous first quarter the night before against the Pelicans, the Spurs were determined not to repeat it early. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell hit their first threes of game, and the Spurs defense was focused and playing the passing lanes. About the only complaint was too many bunnies were being missed, and both teams were tied at 13 apiece at the first timeout. However, the Spurs got a little lazy in transition, and the Magic went on an 8-0 run after a Johnson dunk out of the timeout. As was the theme for the first three quarters, the Spurs respond with 7-0 run to tie it up at 24-24 before an 8-0 Magic run gave them a 34-28 lead to end the quarter.
In response, the Spurs opened the second quarter on a 9-4 run to keep the Magic from running away. They kept the ball moving and attacking the glass and jumped out to a 52-44 lead on 10-0 run that included threes from Doug McDermott and Johnson. They later held their largest lead 9 at 61-52, but the Magic again responded, closing on 9-0 run to tie things up 61-61 at the half.
It was a slow offensive start to the third quarter for both teams, but the Magic had a sudden advantage on their side: the refs. With Orlando getting calls on seemingly everything, most of the ticky-tac variety, they were in the bonus less than 5 minutes in while Poeltl and Sochan both had to sit with four fouls. Overall, the Spurs had seven fouls called on them before the Magic even had one, but while they managed to survive that stretch and still led 81-74 with under five minutes left, the Magic went on another 10-0 run to retake the lead and momentum, going into the fourth quarter up 94-89.
By this time, the Spurs were too far out of rhythm and energy to make another comeback attempt. The Magic continued their previous run to outscore the Spurs 21-7 to start the fourth quarter and never looked back. They hit their first eight threes, led by three straight from Mo Bamba, and what was a competitive game quickly turned into extended garbage time.
- Sochan hit his only free throw of the game, taking his overall record on one-handed free throws to 9-15, good for 60 percent. While he still needs to be better than that (and it’s still a small sample size), it’s quite the leap from the 43 percent he was shooting from the line before this week. It’s a good sign that he’s a willing learner willing to tweak his game despite making it to the pros. Not all players are so open to being coached that way, but he is. Also, the idea that his aggression level on offense will go up even more as his confidence at the line increases seems to be holding up so far, as he drove to the rim plenty and shot 6-9 from inside the arc.
- By the time the game was over, the free throw disparity didn’t look that bad, sitting at 20 attempts for the Magic to 18 for the Spurs. However, a lot of that was made up for after the game was out of hand, but earlier it was as steep as 16 to 5, and that 7-0 run of Spurs to Magic fouls in the third quarter really sucked a lot of the fun out of the game and shifted the momentum in the Magic’s favor. Perhaps the most egregious call during that run came on an “away from the ball” foul on Sochan during an inbounds play. Video review clearly showed Franz Wagner grabbed him first, but the refs can’t use video review to overturn the call in this case, only to confirm if Sochan’s “retaliatory” foul was before the ball was inbounded, and the call stood.
Play of the game
When the Spurs were on in this game, it was more methodical than exciting, but this Keldon Johnson drive and slam around an unsuspecting Magic defense was one of many excellent plays executed out of a timeout.
Coming up: Monday vs. Utah Jazz
The Spurs return home after four games away from the AT&T Center to take on a surprising Jazz team. Hopefully no one is too hungover from Christmas festivities.
Happy Holidays, Spurs family!