I was able to speak with head coach Stan Van Gundy amongst the media, as well as talk with Jameer Nelson, Marcin Gortat, Rashard Lewis, Matt Barnes, and Dwight Howard after the Orlando Magic defeated the San Antonio Spurs by the score of 110-84.
Stan Van Gundy
Rashard Lewis got things going in the first quarter and it seemed like you ran a few plays for him to get him going. Could you talk about his performance tonight?
Well, I thought … certainly the first play … I wanted to get the ball in his hands on a play where I thought he had a chance to get a shot. I just wanted to get him into the flow right away but yeah, he played well tonight and shot the ball well. Everybody is going to have ups and downs but he’s always been a guy that’s bounced back and I thought he had a good night tonight.
With Tony Parker absent from the game, how do you think that changed things for the San Antonio Spurs?
Well, he’s a big part of what they do. He’s a one-man machine on the fast break and they need that. They need easy buckets and we didn’t allow that tonight. We all got back, for the most part. We shut down the paint and made them shoot jumpshots.
Could you talk about your relationship with Anthony Johnson? What has he taught you?
Well, he just … each game we warm-up, he stays on me about practicing certain shots. We [are] out there practicing certain shots before the game in the layup line. Every timeout, he’s in my ear about certain things that he see and he could be not playing, he could be one of the guys that’s just … ‘aw, I’m not playing, I’m not going to say anything’ but he’s not like that and he’s the ultimate professional. I’ve been very fortunate to have him, guys like Grant Hill, and other guys around me that are great professionals.
Dwight Howard got in foul trouble but once again, you were able to come in and play well. Could you talk about your performance tonight?
Well, like I said and I’m saying again, it’s an opportunity. I got to be ready to play all 48 minutes or be ready to play 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s two minutes, sometimes it’s 10 minutes. I just try to put in as much energy as I can and today, I felt great. Especially after a couple good possessions on defense, a couple of rebounds, put-backs, and after that, you’re getting confident so everything is easier. I felt really good today.
Do you like where the energy level is at? Not only with yourself, but with the team?
We’re already saying that when the white crew is coming into the game, we got more energy, the ball moves a little bit more, and the game looks really nice.
It seems like people underestimate sometimes playing on a back-to-back and the rigors of it. Could you describe what makes it tough?
Well, I just think … I just think it’s not enough sleeping. That’s how it is. It’s a lot of work. Like coach said, most of it is just mental. We got to get ready for the game. We got the conditioning. We got great physical preparation. We are prepared very well so at least for me, there’s no problem.
Is it more preparation? Energy? Is there anything specific?
I feel good half the time playing on a back-to-back but like I said again, I’m playing four or 10 minutes a game. I don’t know what it’s like to play 35 minutes a game. I mean, I think everything is just about mental preparation and you just got to be ready to play. Those teams are good and they’re going to come out to try to win the game. Obviously we are one of the best teams in the NBA and everyone wants to beat us, so you just got to step out [on the court] and play hard.
Do you feel like the early involvement in the game got you into a groove?
Most definitely, it did. Especially when you make your first shot, then you feel like you’re going to make every shot you put up that night but at the same time, I thought — overall — our bench played great. As a whole unit, I thought we played good on the defensive end and that led to easy baskets on the offensive end.
Knowing that the Spurs were playing on a back-to-back, was it an important thing to put the pressure on them early?
Most definitely. They played in Miami last night and coming in, we just wanted to set the tone early and I thought we did a great job of setting the tone early in the first quarter. We built the lead but they cut it to 10 by halftime then we came out in the third quarter, I thought we played great in the third quarter, and we were able to keep a lead throughout the whole game.
Could you talk about the team defense? Dwight did a great job on Tim Duncan but overall, did you guys feel like you did a great job of stopping him as a unit?
Yeah, Dwight did a great job holding him individually. I thought we did a great job of containing the perimeter but the rotations were there. In the pick and roll, the next guy rotated down. Overall, everybody did their job, being in the right spots when they were supposed to.
Stylistically, do you see any similarities on the offensive end between what the Spurs do and what you guys do? They got Duncan in the middle and shooters surrounding him.
A little bit, especially when they play small. [Antonio] McDyess can shoot the ball as well but [more so] when they play small and they have Duncan in the middle with a bunch of perimeter shooters around him. But I thought a big key to their team is Tony Parker. They were missing him. A guy that gets into the paint, create open shots for himself as well as other guys, and I thought they were missing him tonight.
Given that the Spurs were playing on a back-to-back, did you feel a sense of urgency to put pressure on them early?
Yeah, we knew that they were tired and if we go out there and set the tone early, they may fold. We had an 18 point lead going into halftime and they closed it to 10, but we came out and responded with a good third quarter and put them away.
Could you describe a back-to-back? People sometimes don’t see that it’s very tough for the players. Could you explain what makes it tough?
Just the fact that you’re in one city, you have to fly a couple hours to the next city, and you don’t go to sleep until four in the morning. Then you got to play, at least in our situation, we’re playing in less than 24 hours again so it’s just … it’s a grind but every team has to do it. We’re struggling on back-to-backs so we need to show some maturity and resilience and get tomorrow’s game.
You guys got the Miami Heat tomorrow. Dwyane Wade, of course, is a tough matchup. What’s the key to slowing him down?
It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a team effort. We’re definitely going to miss [Mickael Pietrus] but we know it’s going to be a team effort. I’m going to do my best to try to make him work for shots and we need to get a win.
Do you think the fact that Matt Barnes is notorious for cutting to the basket as an underrated aspect of the offense?
Well, I think that Matt understands that the ball is going to go through me, Rashard, and Vince [Carter], and I would say two to three ways for Matt to get easy shots [is from] offensive rebounds, running on the break, and also slashing to the basket. He’s great at those three areas and those are the ways he’s going to score, but also spotting up for threes. He’s doing a great job, especially in the second half of the season, of spotting up and knocking down open shots. You got to have a guy like that on your team. He’s not selfish, he just wants to win, and he’ll do all the little things to get there. That’s what we like about him.
With the Spurs playing on a back-to-back, was there an emphasis to jump on them early?
Well, we just wanted to come back from a loss and come out with a lot of energy and for the most part, we did that, so we got a big one coming up tomorrow against a team that has beat us twice. It’s the last time we play those guys so we want to end it on a good note.
How did the absence of Tony Parker affect the Spurs’ offensive gameplan in tonight’s game?
Well, we haven’t played against Parker all year. I haven’t really seen him play … the Spurs play with him in the lineup. One thing you have to be aware of is him pushing the ball coast-to-coast and scoring, being a great facilitator on offense, and he’s very tough.