Magic shooting goes cold in loss to Spurs
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — In a preseason tuneup against Orlando, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich limited his veterans’ minutes and paved the way for the Magic to pull out a close victory.
It was a feel-good moment for first-year Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn, a former Spurs assistant, to best his former mentor in their first meeting.
That was the preseason. This time the teacher showed his pupil no mercy.
Manu Ginobili had 20 points, Gary Neal scored 19 and the Spurs earned their fifth straight win, racing past the Magic 110-89 on Wednesday night.
Tim Duncan added 15 points in 27 minutes, and Tony Parker chipped in 14 points and eight assists.
“We’re just playing basketball the way we’ve been playing it,” Duncan said. “Whoever is put in front of us, that’s how we’re playing. We’ve been playing well for a couple of games here and we hope to continue it.”
The Spurs posted their eighth consecutive victory on the road and have now beaten the Magic in five of their last six meetings.
Arron Afflalo led the Magic with 16 points, followed by Jameer Nelson with 14. The Magic struggled from the field, connecting on just two of their 15 3-point attempts.
Orlando has lost two straight and concludes its season-high, five-game homestand Friday against Brooklyn. San Antonio ends its six-game road trip Thursday in Miami.
Using a barrage of outside shooting and easy transition baskets, San Antonio opened up a 20-point lead minutes into the fourth quarter and was able to coast down the stretch as its field goal shooting hovered near 50 percent.
“I don’t know if it takes a perfect effort,” Nelson said. “We’ve got to put forth more of an effort as a team and eliminate some of the mistakes we had out there and some of that uncertainty, and be more decisive offensively.”
Popovich said he wanted to try to limit Duncan’s minutes as they wound down the long road trip. As it turned out, the veteran didn’t have to push himself against the Magic.
When he was in the game, Orlando’s frontcourt players had difficulty containing him or any of San Antonio’s other big men in the half court. That included Tiago Splitter, who had nine points off the bench.
For the game the Spurs connected on 44 of 88 field goal attempts, or 52 percent.
“It’s early. We’ll lose our share, but right now we’re playing pretty well, I guess,” Popovich said. “It’s our second road trip this month. Six days and then 10 days, and this one, so I think they do deserve credit for keeping their focus all that time.”
In contrast, Wednesday marked the second time this season the Magic starters failed to attempt a single free throw. No Orlando player attempted a free throw until there were less than five minutes to play in the game.
For the night, Orlando was just 41 of 95 from the field.
“We can’t let shots dictate the rest of the game,” Vaughn said. “A shot can’t dictate transition defense, a missed shot can’t dictate our ability to box out and not give up second-chance points … shots have nothing to do with that.”
The tone was set early with the Spurs controlling most of the first half, getting easy looks from both the inside and outside as they built a 14-point halftime lead.
The Spurs’ “Big Three” were all beneficiaries, led by Duncan’s 13 points, followed by Ginobili and Parker with 12 apiece.
Ginobili got hot from beyond the arc early, and was responsible for four of San Antonio’s six 3-pointers in the half. That opened up the paint for Duncan, who had several makes inside of 5 feet.
Parker was equally adept at getting to the rim and also had a pair of three-point plays.
Meanwhile, Orlando couldn’t find the touch from deep, going 1 for 8 from the 3-point line.
The Magic’s starters struggled overall from the field, going 11 for 26 collectively.
Parker said in a way, being away from home so much early this season has been the best medicine for a team that didn’t find the cohesion it was seeking in the preseason.
“We’ve been sharing the ball. Our offense has been clicking,” Parker said. “At home we were a little bit out of sync. We’ve been using this road trip to jell and try to get the groove we had last year.”
Popovich said he did leave the court feeling a little sympathy for the challenge Vaughn has going forward.
“Of course I do,” he said. “No coach steps in anywhere, and puts in a system with new players and new faces and gets everything right, very quickly. It’s going to take time…But he has the discipline, the work ethic, and the respect that he engenders with people that those qualities will get it done.”
Notes: The 3-pointer Duncan hit at the end first half was just his second make beyond the arc in three seasons. …The Magic have now had at least 15 turnovers in each of their last eight games.