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Spurs can’t complete comeback in second-straight loss

Orlando’s defensive pressure stifles San Antonio’s offensive attack.

Orlando Magic v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

It was another up and down affair for the San Antonio Spurs in their 108-98 loss to the Orlando Magic. Despite getting off to a hot start, and finishing the game on a big run, the Silver and Black couldn’t crawl out of the deficit they created in the second and third quarters.

The Magic’s defensive pressure caused big problems for San Antonio all game. Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Isaac in particular were menaces at the point of attack and in the paint. Orlando caused the Spurs to turn the ball over 19 times, and scored 10 points directly off those turnovers. That smothering defense caused San Antonio to shoot just 45% from the field overall, and 29% from deep on 31 attempts.

The Spurs first quarter performance didn’t indicate they would struggle offensively. From tip-off the Silver and Black were aggressive, particularly Jeremy Sochan, Victor Wembanyama and Devin Vassell. Outside of a Dominick Barlow layup, that trio scored all of the Spurs first quarter points. Vassell in particular was solid all night. He finished with 26 points and 4 assists, hitting big shots down the stretch.

Orlando ratcheted up their defensive pressure in the second and third quarters, holding the Spurs to 21 points in each quarter. San Antonio simply couldn’t find an offensive rhythm while Orlando grinded out good looks offensively. In the third quarter that stagnant offense was exacerbated by sloppy ball security.

“Too many turnovers and dry possessions,” Vassell told reporters in the post game press conference. “We had them doing layup lines.”

The Spurs gave up a 17-0 run to the Magic in the third quarter, allowing them to build a 20+ point lead. San Antonio went scoreless for four minutes of that quarter. They were outscored 34-21 in the third frame.

Just when it appeared to be over, Blake Wesley got a few steals that seemingly shifted momentum ever so slightly. In the fourth quarter, the Spurs finally began to knock down threes and get out in transition. Tre Jones, Vassell and Sochan led the Spurs charge back in the fourth. Jones was aggressive on the break, pushing the pace and finding shooters in rhythm. He finished with 8 points, 8 assists and 3 steals. Sochan was aggressive getting to the basket and hit a huge three to cut the lead to single digits. Sochan had 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The Spurs went on a 21-2 run without Wembanyama in the fourth quarter. With 2 minutes to go they found themselves down by just three. Some untimely turnovers and poor shooting at the free throw line doomed the Spurs, as they couldn’t complete the comeback at home.

San Antonio will be tasked with playing a full-48 agains the New Orleans Pelicans in their next contest on Friday night. They dropped their last matchup with the Pelicans 121-106.

Game notes:

  • On paper it was a fine performance for Wembanyama. The rookie had 21 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks. On the floor it seemed like he had less of an impact than he traditionally would. Isaac made things tough on the big man inside. He may be one of the few players who can bother Wembanyama with his length. Wemby was deterring shots around the rim, but wasn’t contesting a lot of floaters and five-footers that Orlando was able to get over him. Finding a way to at least get a hand up to disrupt those shots will be a big part of his defensive development.
  • Malaki Branham found his way back into the rotation tonight with injuries to Zach Collins and Keldon Johnson. The sophomore didn’t make much of an impact, putting up 4 points and 4 rebounds off the bench. He was able to get to his spot on a mid-range jumper in the third quarter. Finding him reps to get him comfortable again should be a top priority heading into the second half of the season. Whether that’s in San Antonio or Austin.
  • It is hard to come out of this game not impressed with the Magic. Their defense is legit with multiple 6-foot-10 or taller players on the court at the same time. Isaac caused problems all night with his 4 blocks. Paolo Banchero is a force inside, and Franz Wagner is one of the smoothest wings in the league. If they add some shooting and a go-to scoring guard, they could be a contender in the East.