Magic-Spurs Preview

The San Antonio Spurs wanted to avoid the kind of uneven
beginning that contributed to their early ouster from the playoffs
last season. They’ve certainly done that with the best start in
franchise history that includes a 10-game winning streak.

The Spurs look to match their longest run in almost three years
when they take on the surging Orlando Magic in a matchup of
conference leaders Monday night.

The Spurs (11-1) beat Cleveland 116-92 on Saturday, as Tony
Parker scored 19 points to lead six San Antonio players in double
figures. It was the team’s most lopsided victory of the season.

“Great run for us,” forward Tim Duncan said. “It’s a good start
for us. There’s going to be some ups and downs this season, but
this team is built on what we did last year.”

San Antonio has clearly been determined to avert a repeat of
last season’s 6-6 start, which forced the Spurs to battle down the
stretch just to end up with the No. 7 seed in the Western
Conference. They defeated Dallas in the first round but were swept
by Phoenix after that.

After San Antonio played Friday night in Utah, Duncan was
limited to 17 minutes and had eight points and five assists against
the Cavaliers. That allowed rookie big man Tiago Splitter to step
up, and he delivered with 18 points and five rebounds in 27
minutes.

He and Duncan will likely share the defensive responsibility
against Orlando’s Dwight Howard, who averaged just 9.5 points and
6.5 rebounds against the Spurs last season.

Despite its aging core, San Antonio is second in the NBA with
107.8 points per game. Last season they averaged 101.4.

A rejuvenated Parker has been a big reason for the jump. After
being limited to 56 games last season due to injuries, he’s
averaging 19.1 points and 7.7 assists in 2010-11. He scored at
least 20 points in five straight games before going 7 of 11 from
the field in 28 minutes Saturday.

The Spurs, seeking their longest win streak since taking 11
straight from Feb. 11-March 6, 2008, will be facing a Magic team
that has limited opponents to a league-low 90.3 points a game and
given up 100 or more only twice.

Orlando (9-3) is coming off a 90-86 road win over Indiana on
Saturday, its fourth consecutive victory. The Magic limited the
Pacers to 34 points in the second half and 39.3 percent shooting
overall, allowing Orlando to overcome the fact that it was held to
91 points or fewer for the third time during the win streak.

“We have a lot of grind-it-out wins,” coach Stan Van Gundy said.
“We’re not scoring a lot offensively. On the positive side, towards
the end of the season, come playoff time, we’ve got to learn to win
those games.”

Howard had 25 points and 12 rebounds and Rashard Lewis added 21
points. Vince Carter, however, was held to less than 10 points for
the second time this season, finishing with eight on 3-of-12
shooting. He’s averaging 8.8 points on the road compared to 17.3 at
home.

The Magic have won three in a row away from Orlando.

“We’ve been a pretty good road team over the years since I’ve
been here, especially since Stan’s been here,” said point guard
Jameer Nelson, who converted a go-ahead three-point play with 33
seconds left. “It’s hard to go on the road because you don’t have
the energy coming from your fans. It’s good to win games with your
defense and your intensity.”

The Magic, though, lost 112-100 at San Antonio on April 2 to
fall to 4-18 all-time on the road in the series. Manu Ginobili had
43 points, six rebounds and five assists in that contest.

Orlando beat the Spurs 110-84 at home March 17.