It took a while, but the San Antonio Spurs have finally found success on the road this season.
They had to work a little longer than normal to realize it, though.
After dropping their first five games away from Texas to begin year, the Spurs put the ball in the hands of one of their stars late in the game Wednesday night to help them grind out an 85-83 overtime victory over the Orlando Magic.
Tony Parker, who has helped carry the team with Manu Ginobili sidelined, scored 25 points, including 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, to help preserve the win.
”We wanted to come here and try to play well and have an opportunity to win the game,” Parker said. ”I’m happy it bounced our way finally.”
Tim Duncan said the effort was just good enough and came at the right time for a team that was coming off blowing a 17-point lead in a 22-point loss to Miami.
”It took every minute of that game and we couldn’t make shots at the right time, but we continued to make stops, continued to push,” he said.
The loss snapped a season-best five-game win streak for the Magic, which also lost the only game of their lone back-to-back-to-back stretch of the season.
Dwight Howard led the Magic with 24 points and 25 rebounds, with Ryan Anderson adding 17 and Von Wafer 15 off the bench. But it wasn’t enough for them to overcome a dismal shooting night.
Both teams traded a pair of baskets to begin the extra period before and 18-foot jumper by Duncan made it 81-79 with under a minute to play in OT.
A dunk by Howard off a missed jumper by Jameer Nelson quickly tied it again before Gary Neal’s 3-pointer on the ensuing possession put the Spurs back up three.
Wafer drove, was able to spin in a layup and was fouled with 16.3 left, but missed the free throw.
Richard Jefferson was fouled on the rebound, though was able to connect on only one of his two free throws.
The Magic got multiple looks at a 3-pointer to win the game on their final possession, but J.J. Redick’s final swish from the top of the key was ruled to be after the final horn.
Spurs coach Greg Popovich said he isn’t surprised by the resiliency his team showed when things got tight.
”They always respond and tonight they did,” he said. ”They were aggressive, they were physical and more than anything they just played through whatever was going to happen on the court. They didn’t worry about the last play. … Just that mental toughness that they showed after not showing it last night, that was very satisfying for the whole group.”
Winners of 10 of 12 games entering Wednesday, there hadn’t been much to rattle the Magic during that streak.
Not long stretches of games with few breaks. Not playing poor defense, shooting badly or allowing teams to hang around late.
But against San Antonio, the Magic at times were guilty of all, most notably a 33 percent (29 for 87) shooting night from the field.
Still, coach Stan Van Gundy said afterward that the deficiencies came most from his end this time around,
”Just kicking ourselves,” he said. ”Our guys deserve to win with the effort they put out tonight. But I’m kind of disappointed in myself.”
Specifically, he noted that he thought he might have reacted to different situations too slow at times and played Howard and Nelson too long. Howard played 40 minutes and Nelson 38.
”We just came up short in the end,” Howard said. ”Third game in a row, (we) fought hard for the whole game. So there’s nothing bad you can say about tonight’s game.”
Parker scored 10 of the Spurs first 12 points of the fourth quarter to push San Antonio out to a 69-64 lead with less than eight minutes to play in regulation.
Orlando came back and got a steal and layup on the other end by layup by Redick to tie it at 73 with 36.9 seconds remaining before a tip-in by Duncan on the Spurs next trip.
Redick tied it again with a pair of free-throws with 17 seconds left, but Parker badly missed a jumper. The Magic got the rebound, but with only .03 seconds they couldn’t get off a clean shot.
The Magic were without one of their best post entry passers Wednesday with starter Hedo Turkoglu sitting because of injury, and it showed for Orlando in its half-court offense.
Duncan matched up with Howard defensively, playing him mostly straight up with no double-team help.
The philosophy worked for the most part with the Magic leading by just three points at the break and Howard managing only seven field goal and four free-throw attempts for eight first-half points.
The Spurs failed to capitalize, though, shooting 40 percent in the half, including 1 for 8 from the 3-point line.
As good as the win felt, Spurs forward Richard Jefferson said it is nothing they are going to dwell on.
”I know it’s the first road victory, but let us not get carried away,” he said. ”It’s not like we were a bad team, or under .500. … We had some tough losses and bad losses. We have a quality team here. We just have to play better on the road for a longer period of time.”
Notes: Howard recorded his fourth 20-point, 20-rebound game of the season. … Turkoglu missed his first start of the season with back spasms. Swingman Quentin Richardson made his first start of the season in his place. SG Jason Richardson sat out for the third straight game with a bone bruise on his left knee. … The Spurs begin a stretch of four games in six days when they host the Kings.