ORLANDO, Fla. — Gregg Popovich is trying to get the San Antonio Spurs deep into the NBA playoffs again. James Borrego is trying to get the Orlando Magic to somehow become a deeper team.
Anyone in attendance Wednesday night who hoped to see Tim Duncan and Tony Parker put on a show for an extended length of time came away with a sense of disappointment. But with the lift the Spurs got off their bench from Aron Baynes, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw, Cory Joseph and the age-defying Manu Ginobili, it didn’t matter.
With the lack of production the Magic received from their non-starters in their 103-91 loss, Borrego was the one who had every right to feel disappointed.
"Their bench looked like the fresher bench," he said. "At times, they looked like the fresher team. That’s not who we are, and that’s not who we want to be. We’ve got to be the more aggressive team, the younger team, the more athletic team, the team flying around. There were spurts of that tonight, but as a whole, we didn’t get that done."
Ginobili, who turns 38 in July, outscored the Magic’s bench by himself in only 18 minutes of playing time. And for the first time all season, it was Baynes — not Duncan, Parker or Kawhi Leonard — who led the Spurs in scoring.
By contrast, when Borrego chose to bring someone in for the first time with the Magic leading 17-14 in the first quarter, it was Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn. Both of them were out of the game for good by the time the Spurs completed a 20-2 run from which the Magic never recovered.
"When they made their run, it was tough for us to get back into our rhythm and try to bounce back," said Tobias Harris, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds while playing almost the entire second half.
The Magic got a total of only 12 points off their bench, with half of that output coming on a pair of 3-point field goals by Luke Ridnour in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Even after Dewayne Dedmon fouled out during that same stretch, Borrego chose to stay with Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton for the bulk of the remaining time. Oladipo played the entire quarter, an upcoming road back-to-back at Minnesota and Milwaukee be damned.
Meanwhile, Popovich never had any reason to use his five starters over the final 12 minutes on a night where the Spurs got 69 points from their bench, including nine 3-point field goals.
"They’re just a veteran team," Dedmon said. "They’re deep 1 through 10, 1 through 15, however many players they played. They’ve been playing together for a long time."
"Our bench has been good for us over the last month," Borrego said. "Tonight, I don’t think we had enough effort, enough energy, enough focus out of our bench tonight to match their energy, their focus, their intensity."
Payton had another solid, stat-stuffing outing with 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four of the Magic’s seven steals. But fellow first-round pick Aaron Gordon barely broke a sweat through the first three quarters despite Dedmon’s foul problems and Borrego’s decision not to use Channing Frye for the first time all season.
The Magic had only 60 points on 37.5-percent shooting through three quarters.
"You’ve got to give San Antonio credit," Borrego said. "They’re a good defensive team, and they’re peaking right now. And we got a taste of what that elite defense is, and we have to continue to trust each other with the ball."
The loss dropped the Magic’s record to 7-16 since Borrego, a former video coordinator and assistant coach under Popovich, replaced Jacque Vaughn.
"Of course I would hope things go well for JB," Popovich said before the game. "But those decisions are always difficult. And I know that Rob (Hennigan, the Magic’s general manager) is going to do every kind of due diligence possible to do what he and the owners think is best moving forward. That’s what it’s all about."