Spurs overcome slow start to beat Magic, win sixth straight game
Coming off their most exhilarating victory of the season, the San Antonio Spurs admitted they had a letdown against the Orlando Magic.
A veteran roster enabled San Antonio to make that admission after escaping with a 121-112 victory over Orlando on Saturday night.
Tony Parker scored 30 points, Manu Ginobili added 24 points and Kawhi Leonard had 17 points along with two key steals late to help the Spurs win their sixth straight.
Two nights after an emotional 111-87 victory over the Miami Heat in an NBA Finals rematch, the Spurs were listless against the Southeast Division’s last-place team.
”It’s always hard after a big win against Miami, the emotions,” Parker said. ”We wanted to make sure we didn’t come out flat, and Orlando, they came out firing. They were shooting the ball very well from outside. They are young and they wanted to prove something. They made it hard on us but it’s a big win for us.”
Tim Duncan added 11 points and 10 rebounds as San Antonio (46-16) tied Indiana and Oklahoma City for the league’s best record.
Led by former San Antonio player and assistant Jacque Vaughn, the Magic gave his former team a tense evening before the Spurs closed it out late.
”I thought Orlando played really good basketball,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who let out a deep breath after the game. ”They were aggressive. They shared it. They were in attack mode all night. I thought their defense was good. We picked our defense up and got a little more physical in the second half.”
Orlando was within 101-97 with 7 minutes remaining before San Antonio began a late run.
Ginobili lured E’Twaun Moore into hitting his right triceps, as he rose for an off-balance, fallaway, 14-foot jumper. The Argentine guard made the free throw to complete the three-point play and give San Antonio a 114-104 lead with 2:34 remaining.
Leonard followed with a steal that led to his breakaway dunk and Parker nailed a 3-pointer to put the Spurs up 119-104 with just under 2 minutes left to essentially seal the victory.
Leonard’s first steal came with San Antonio up 103-97 and Orlando coming out of a timeout. He made one of two free throws after Arron Afflalo was assessed a clear path foul.
”Those two steals were huge,” Ginobili said. ”One because it was right after timeout and they ran a good play, but Kawhi with those long arms and great hands got a steal and then a fragrant foul and then a couple plays later, he basically closed the game.”
Prior to that closing run, the Magic gave the Spurs fits.
Tobias Harris scored 23 points, Nikola Vucevic added 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Afflalo had 17 points for Orlando (19-45). Maurice Harkless added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Magic, who were swept in the season series.
The Magic led by as many as seven points and last led 67-66 with 8:15 remaining in the third quarter. But they were able to stay within 10 points for much of the game.
”Just overall our mental toughness,” Vaughn said. ”That’s what you have to lean on, on the road is being able to fight through.”
San Antonio struggled to contain seven-foot center Nikola Vucevic, who hit a series of short jumpers, layups and hook shots against Splitter and Duncan. The third-year pro out of Montenegro was 8 for 16 from the field.
After attacking the paint in an explosive start against the Heat in their previous game, the Spurs were less aggressive and effective against the Magic. San Antonio started 2 for 6.
A timeout by Popovich midway through the first quarter changed that. Parker drove the lane on three consecutive possessions following the timeout, scoring consecutive layups and having his third attempt trickle off the rim.
”Pop was a little bit worried we would have a slow start after such a big win against Miami,” Parker said. ”We just wanted to make sure we didn’t come out flat. So, I was very aggressive from the get-go to make sure I had a good start.”
NOTES: Spurs P Jeff Ayres (sprained hand) was originally listed on the pregame roster as not playing, but was cleared later in the day. He did not play, however. . Magic rookie G Victor Oladipo (sore left ankle) missed his second straight game after playing in the team’s first 62. … Vaughn played for the Spurs from 2006-09 and was an assistant under Popovich for two seasons beginning in the 2010-11 season prior to becoming the Magic’s coach. Before the game, Popovich walked over to the Orlando bench to greet Vaughn. . Popovich was asked if he would consider becoming a studio analyst once his coaching days are over. `’Just watch one of my end-of-quarter interviews and I think that will answer your question concisely and accurately,” Popovich said, attempting to stifle a chuckle. … San Antonio celebrated the 31st anniversary of its mascot, the Coyote, throughout the game. On hand for the celebration were the Portland Trail Blazers’ mascot, Blaze, and Rocky of the Denver Nuggets.