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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Orlando Magic

Shorthanded Spurs look to bounce back against Orlando

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Riding the high off an impressive win over the Denver Nuggets, the Spurs faltered in their second game of a 6-game homestand in a 102-90 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They were without some of their key contributors in the last contest, and the injury report has only grown since then.

The Spurs will once again rely on veteran contributors like Devonte Graham, Zach Collins and Keita Bates-Diop to lead the way as they face off against an up and coming Magic squad. Of course the odd-on favorite rookie of the year, Paolo Banchero will be the main player to watch for Spurs fans who have only gotten a chance to see him once this season. In that matchup, the Magic defeated the Spurs 133-113 behind 21 points from Franz Wagner, who is questionable for this game.

The Spurs have 6 players listed on the injury report, which means young players like Blake Wesley and Dominick Barlow could take on expanded roles. Spurs fans will be keeping a close eye on Sandro Mamukelashvili after his eye-popping performance against Denver. The Spurs will need the young guys to step up if they want to defend their home court against the Magic.

San Antonio Spurs (17-50) vs. Orlando Magic (28-40)

March 14, 2023 | 7 p.m. CT

Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI/KXTN

Spurs injuries: Khem Birch — Out (knee), Malaki Branham — Out (shoulder), Keldon Johnson — Questionable (foot), Tre Jones — Questionable (non-covid illness) Romeo Langford — Out (adductor), Jeremy Sochan – Questionable (foot)

Magic injuries: Jonathan Isaac — Out (adductor), Franz Wagner — Questionable (ankle)

What to watch for

Can Devin Vassell find his rhythm?

Devin Vassell showed promise as a leading scorer early in the season. However, since returning from knee surgery in March, we have only seem glimpses of that shot-making ability in 4 games. Vassell struggled were a discussion point after San Antonio’s most recent loss.

“He doesn’t have his rhythm and he’s having a tough time getting it back,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said. “I think he’s a little frustrated his game didn’t just pick up where it left off. It’s gonna take him a little longer to feel comfortable.”

The Spurs guard is scoring 13 points a game on 38% shooting from the field, and 25% from 3-point range. Even his shots in rhythm are hitting the front of the rim. It will likely take more than 4 games for him to fully get back in the swing of things, and really all you want to see is continued progress. With so many key contributors potentially sitting this one out, the ball should be in Vassell’s hands more often, giving him plenty of room to find his shooting touch again for the Silver and Black.

How will they handle Orlando’s length?

The Magic are a long, athletic team. With guys like Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr. and Bol Bol, they have plenty of disruptive players on the court at all times. Luckily, the Spurs won’t have to deal with the stout defense from Jonathan Isaac, and perhaps Franz Wagner who is questionable.

The Magic cause their opponents to turn the ball over 15 times a game, making them a top-10 team in the league at turning their opponent over. They do this with stout defensive guards like Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs and Gary Harris, with wings like Banchero capitalizing in the passing lanes and the paint. In their last game against the Thunder, San Antonio turned the ball over 19 times. They will need to take care of the basketball to win this game.

What roles will we see from Blake Wesley and Mamukelashvili?

With Branham, Johnson, Jones and Sochan potentially not playing, there should be a big role for Blake Wesley in theory. Will we see the 19-year-old start after a rough game against OKC? After his call-up from Austin, Wesley put up 2 points and 6 assists on 1 of 12 shooting in 30 minutes of play. He saw extended run once Branham left with a shoulder injury, so perhaps we could see a similar role as the lead guard in this context. As previously mentioned, the Magic have great defensive guards, meaning this will be a good test for the Spurs rookie.

Mamukelashvili similarly struggled after a fun performance against Denver. He put up 6 points and 7 rebounds and was -13 in his 17 minutes of play. The Spurs will need some big bodies to band inside with the likes of Carter Jr. and Banchero. We should see plenty of run from the Georgian big man against Orlando, as he hopes to recapture the 4th quarter magic from his Denver performance.

For the Magic fan’s perspective, visit Orlando Pinstriped Post.

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