Mar 12, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Drew Eubanks (14) blocks a shot against Orlando Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams (7) as Spurs guard Derrick White (4) assists the second quarter at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs overcome shorthanded Orlando Magic 104-77
The energy was palpable as the San Antonio Spurs played in front of fans at the AT&T Center for the first time this season. Facing a shorthanded Orlando Magic team, the Spurs would ride the wave of energy from their fans to a 104-77 victory.
The Magic have been decimated by injuries this year. They’ve already lost Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz for the season and tonight they were without Terrance Ross, Even Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Cole Anthony, and James Ennis as well. And they had just played a game in Miami the night before. On some level, you almost feel bad for the guys who had to struggle through this back to back.
Watching the Magic early you wouldn’t have thought they looked tired. They held a 29-16 lead after the first quarter but once the Spurs got warmed up things went south quickly for Orlando. A 10-point second quarter for the Magic compounded by the Spurs finding their rhythm and giving their fans the blowout we had all been hoping for.
Even without DeMar DeRozan, this was a game that many expected the Spurs to win. After putting a brief scare into us all in the first quarter they pulled things together to do exactly that. Here are the three things that stood out most in the victory.
Next: Shaking off the rust
Mar 12, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) and guard Dejounte Murray (5) celebrate after scoring against the Orlando Magic in the second quarter at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs shake off the rust in front of their home crowd
Is it just me or did the guys like kind of nervous tonight? Stage fright is a real thing and it looked like the Spurs were suffering from a bit of it early on. They were playing in front of fans for the first time in over a year so can you blame them?
Not only were the Spurs playing in front of their fans for the first time in forever, but they’re also still dealing with a few players getting back to game shape. Key players such as Rudy Gay and Derrick White got back on the floor earlier this week against Dallas but Devin Vassell was playing his first game since February 14th, that’s a lot of rust to shake off.
They started out cold as ice, clanking jumper after jumper off the rim. A Keldon Johnson poster sent a shot of energy into the team but even still, the first quarter was ugly.
Things started to pick up in the second. Dejounte Murray knocked down a few shots from the mid-range, Derrick White started to heat up from behind the arc. A 10-0 run in the second helped the Spurs blow the game open and take a 47-39 lead into halftime.
San Antonio came out of the locker room strong and continued to put the clamps down on the Magic. In typical fashion, Dejounte picked up a pair of steals while Patty Mills would contribute three of his own as the Spurs limited the Magic to just 38 second-half points.
It was just reassuring to see San Antonio put a rough first quarter behind them and play up to the level that we know they can, especially given what this group has been through over the past month.
Next: Rudy Gay cooks in the fourth
Mar 10, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) warms up before the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Rudy Gay got scorching hot in the 4th quarter to carry the Spurs home
The rim must have looked like a bathtub to Rudy Gay in the 4th quarter. He simply couldn’t miss. No, seriously, he literally didn’t miss. He knocked down two threes, a smooth mid-range jumper, and delivered a hammer dunk after a Dejounte Murray steal to remind Spurs fans that he’s still got it.
This is Rudy at his best. An instant offense, floor-spacing forward who can, out of nowhere, carry the Spurs offense for a stretch all by himself. And he can do it from all over the floor too! It’s this kind of well-rounded offensive game that has made him such an attractive trade target.
A lot of talk has been focused on the impending split between LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs but Rudy Gay might not be on the team after March 25th either. The Miami Heat are rumored to be interested in adding the veteran forward and if the Spurs are committing to going younger in their frontcourt they could look to move Gay as well as Aldridge before the deadline later this month.
Next: Nikola Vucevic goes off
Nikola Vucevic shows how he can help the San Antonio Spurs
One player who has been linked to the San Antonio Spurs as we approach the trade deadline is the Magic’s very own Nikola Vucevic. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor was the first to report that the Spurs had shown interest in the All-Star big man.
If you haven’t watched Vucevic play much you’re likely not alone. It’s not as if Orlando has been a regular on TNT over the past few seasons as Vucevic has made his rise. And if you haven’t seen him play you can’t be blamed for not realizing just how good he is.
Without most of their best scorers, Vucevic essentially was the Magic offense in the early parts of this one. It was a heavy load to carry but he shouldered it admirably, putting on a clinic against one of the best young defensive bigs in the league.
You could look at the 26 point performance from Vucevic and think that Poeltl had a bad night but the truth is that Vuc is just that good. It didn’t matter how well Jakob defended him, he couldn’t miss. He finished the night making 12 of his 18 field-goal attempts and both of his three-point attempts.
Since the report came out that the Spurs were interested it’s become increasingly clear that a deal between the Magic and Spurs is unlikely. The asking price on Vucevic is astronomical, and deservedly so. There’s no doubt that he could help make the Spurs better but it looks like it would cost San Antonio more than they’re likely willing to give up to make it happen.
They’ll continue to play under the uncertainty of the situation around Aldridge but the San Antonio Spurs are almost back to full strength. They could get DeMar DeRozan back for Sunday’s game against the 76ers, a game that they would certainly appreciate having his talents for.