January has been a kind month to the San Antonio Spurs. While still playing under-.500 basketball, the young team has turned a corner, looking more confident and competitive in the first month of the new year. An ugly loss to the Washington Wizards on Monday night has put a damper on those efforts. The Spurs have a chance to respond and finish this month on a positive note against the Orlando Magic.
The Magic started the season strong, but have faltered lately – going 3-7 in their last 10 games. Still, the Magic are an up-and-coming young team led by their star wing duo, Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. Orlando is a playoff contender in the East, but are still a team San Antonio can stack itself up against when gauging the ability of its young core. A win on Wednesday would give the team the boost necessary to cary them through the All-Star break.
San Antonio Spurs (10-37) vs. Orlando Magic (24-23)
January 31, 2024 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Charles Bassey – Out (left knee,) Sidy Cissoko – Out (G League,) David Duke Jr. – Out (G League,) Mamadi Diakite – Out (G League,) Dominick Barlow – Questionable (G League,) Zach Collins – Questionable (right ankle,) Keldon Johnson – Questionable (left ankle)
Magic Injuries: Gary Harris – Out (right calf,) Kevon Harris – Out (G League,) Jett Howards – Out (G League)
What to watch for
The Magic are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They are 4th in defensive rating at 112.4. Jalen Suggs, Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr. and Jonathan Isaac are all fierce defenders who can disrupt San Antonio’s offense. Jamahl Mosley has gotten his young team to buy-in on the defensive end of the floor.
The Spurs have been up and down offensively this season. Because of their lack of consistent shot creators, the offense relies on getting the ball inside to Victor Wembanyama, or hitting shots from deep. The Magic allow teams to make around 12 threes per game, 24th in the NBA. San Antonio will need their primary offensive playmakers to step up against a stout Orlando defense.
Pace of play
Contrary to their last game against the Wizards, this game could take on a slower pace of play. The Spurs want to get out and run for easy baskets in transition, as they are 4th in the NBA in pace. The Magic play a more methodical style of basketball (19th in pace,) operating in the half court with primary offensive options like Banchero and Wagner. They will hammer teams inside, much like the Wizards did on Monday night. Whatever team can control the pace of play will give themselves an advantage.
Winning the battle on the perimeter
Orlando is the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA, hitting just 34.1% of their deep balls. The Spurs are 29th shooting 34.6%. Neither of these teams are known to scorch the nets, but while the Magic hold teams to just 36.1% shooting, the Spurs allow opponents to hit 38.8% on threes. The Magic will punish teams on the interior. San Antonio has gotten bumped and bruised in the paint a few times this season, including their most recent loss. Making up for that with a hot night from three could give the Spurs the edge they need.