In a game that went back-and-forth until the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the San Antonio Spurs were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 106-97 to win their 11th consecutive game of the regular season. The loss for the Magic snaps the four game winning streak they had entering the night. The Spurs were led by Manu Ginobili, who had 25 points, nine assists, and six rebounds, as well as make clutch shots down the stretch. Tony Parker had 24 points and 10 assists, Tim Duncan had 15 points, and Matt Bonner had 15 points and seven rebounds — these players highlighted key contributions for San Antonio. On the other side of the coin, the Magic were led by three of their four All-Stars. Dwight Howard finished with 26 points, 18 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks, while Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis chipped in with 15 and 14 points respectively.
This was, without a doubt, one of the best games that will be played in the NBA for the entire season. These were two heavyweights playing at a level that seemed more conducive for the month of June rather than November. The execution was crisp on offense and defense for both teams, and the best players — for the most part — performed at the peak of their abilities. Ginobili and Parker left no doubt that they’re playing like All-Stars, while Howard continues to prove to the public that he’s a much more refined player offensively.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “A situation like this is a main reason why the Orlando Magic signed Quentin Richardson over the summer. Stan Van Gundy said following the team’s shootaround at AT&T Center a few moments ago that Richardson likely will guard Manu Ginobili when the Magic tip-off against the San Antonio Spurs tonight. Ginobili, a 6-foot-6 wing, leads his team in scoring, averaging 20.0 points per game. Mickael Pietrus likely will guard Ginobili when Richardson is out of the game. [...] Ginobili averaged 30.5 points per game in two contests against the Magic last season.”
Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Much has been made of Dwight Howard’s work with Hakeem Olajuwon over the summer, a three-day training session that’s at least partially the reason for Howard’s improved offensive game. But Howard isn’t the only Magic player who learned from Olajuwon this summer. Rashard Lewis also trained with Olajuwon this summer, focusing on improving Lewis’ footwork and post-game. Lewis expected to play more small forward this season, which would mean more post opportunities while matched up against smaller defenders.”
Paul Forrester of Sports Illustrated conducts a Q/A with Rashard Lewis. A must-read. Here’s an excerpt: “[Playing small forward is] easy to remember; it’s almost like riding a bike. Offensively, it’s pretty easy, but on defense I had to learn how to get back to slowing guys on the perimeter. Even more difficult is slowing guys in the pick-and-roll and when guys are getting screens. I’m not used to guys coming and setting screens on me. Playing the 4 used to mean a guy calling out the screen, me jumping out and showing, then trying to stop the guard and getting back. With your back to the basket, you have to listen to the screens getting called out and react that way. Getting through those has been an adjustment.”
John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Like Duncan, Howard knows that his legacy will be dependent more so on his championship hardware than any rebounding titles or dunk contests awards. Howard looks at a center like Duncan who is nearing the twilight of his career and knows that now is his time to grab the NBA by the throat and strangle every bit of success out of it as possible. Criticized at times for his playful nature, Howard turned serious this season as he chases a championship. And he became a student of the low-post game in the offseason, doing more listening than talking, more thinking than laughing. He drilled with Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone on the court, and away from it listened to words of wisdom from seasoned big men like Dikembe Mutombo and Tony Battie.”
Austin Burton of Dime Magazine: “What really stands in Penny’s way is the history of injuries (six knee surgeries) and the simple reality that once you’re out of the NBA, it’s a hell of a lot harder to get back in. That’s why there are 100 players floating around the Euroleague who are better than Brian Cookor more durable than Bobby Simmons, but can’t get a spot in the League because those aforementioned two keep getting work. Penny may have just been gone too long.”
Rashard Lewis has received a consistent torrent of criticism since the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, in which his lack of impact offensively aided in the Orlando Magic‘s inability to return to the NBA Finals last season after making an appearance in 2009. And this year, with each game that passes by and Lewis doesn’t perform up to his standards, the louder the critics have gotten.
It’s one game in the regular season and no one should lose sight of that, but it’s possible that Lewis turned a corner on Saturday against the Indiana Pacers on the offensive side of the ball. With Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter struggling to produce from the perimeter, the Magic needed someone to step up and provide some scoring to complement Dwight Howard‘s efforts in the interior.
Lewis answered the call.
The main thing that stood out, however, when Lewis scored all 21 of his points in the second and third quarters was how he generated his offense. To be specific, in the third quarter, Lewis was involved in a number of 1/4 pick and pops with Nelson. Normally, Lewis gets his shots by either spotting up on the perimeter or posting up on the low block. But instead, head coach Stan Van Gundy got Lewis involved in Orlando’s pick and roll schemes. Smart move.
It’d behoove Van Gundy if he didn’t keep running those types of plays for Lewis.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Leave it to Stan Van Gundy to compare one of his starting forwards to one of baseball’s best sluggers. A couple of years ago, Van Gundy — a lifelong baseball fan — responded to the calls of doom and gloom when the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera started a season poorly. Van Gundy remembers telling someone then that Cabrera would hit .300, hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs. And that’s what Cabrera did. The same goes, Van Gundy says, for [Rashard] Lewis. The starting forward started the year poorly, but might have some traction now after scoring 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting Saturday night in Indianapolis. ‘Rashard’s going to shoot his percentage,’ Van Gundy said. ‘You’re going to have slumps. When it’s at the first of the year, it looks ugly, because your numbers don’t come down from 47 percent to 42 percent. All you’ve got’s the slump, and it looks ugly. But he’s too good a shooter to continue shooting that way. If he continues to play hard and play with energy, he’s going to shoot the ball well.’ ”
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Charles Barkley, TNT studio analyst, didn’t mince words when talking about Dwight Howard and the Magic’s title chances. He’s not a fan. ‘He is getting better, but the Magic have no chance of beating the Celtics or the Heat. Dwight Howard has to become more dominant. He is still not dominating. He is not making them double him every time,’ Barkley said. ‘Unless Dwight Howard becomes more dominant, like a young Shaquille O’Neal, the Orlando Magic are just going to be a good-looking regular-season team with a bunch of good players. They are not going to beat the Heat or the Celtics going to Vince Carter with the game on the line. No disrespect to Vince Carter, but he is not going to take them to the next level. It has to be him [Howard] or Rashard [Lewis] and right now I don’t have faith in either one of those guys. It has got to be Dwight Howard.’ ”
Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: “When the Spurs played the Bulls in a game televised nationally by ESPN, analysts Marc Jackson, the former All-Star point guard, and Jeff Van Gundy, the former coach of the Knicks and Rockets, weighed in on the abundance of top-tier point guards in the NBA this season. Each was asked to rank the top five in the league. Missing from both lists: the Spurs’ Tony Parker. Van Gundy did the best to hedge, saying he would add Parker to his No. 5 spot, along with Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Denver’s Chauncey Billups and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. Van Gundy had Utah’s Deron Williams, New Orleans’ Chris Paul and Boston’s Rajon Rondo in his top three spots, as did Jackson. Ironically, Parker matched up over the past five games with three of Van Gundy’s expanded list of the top five point guards and held his own.”
Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: “Maybe there are more Texas A&M and Baylor football fans among Spurs fans than I thought. But here’s something that left me scratching my head, considering typical attendance patterns and the Spurs’ quick start . You would have thought that a team playing its best basketball in more than two years playing on a Saturday night would have no trouble packing its arena. But not so for the Spurs, who attracted a season-low 16,982 fans to the game Saturday night. After drawing sellouts for the first two games against Indiana and New Orleans, the Spurs failed to sell out in their next three games before drawing a capacity crowd against Chicago last Wednesday. Saturday night’s attendance was the first time the Spurs failed to attract at least 17,000. But I would expect that to change Monday night when Dwight Howard and the Magic come to town. And if they don’t sell out for that game, there might be something tremendously significant in that trend.”
Andrew A. McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell: “The interesting thing is how Splitter is being inserted into the lineup. At this point in Tiago’s NBA career, he’s almost exclusively handcuffed to Matt Bonner in live action. This is both an advantage for the Spurs and a necessary partnership. Tiago Splitter is excellent at running the pick-and-roll, as his performance last night indicates. Pairing Splitter’s talents on the offensive end with Bonner’s floor-stretching ability creates a dangerous offensive second unit. [...] One player who you will almost never see Splitter in the game with is DeJuan Blair. Both have similar skillsets that don’t necessarily complement each other. Offensively both are pick-and-roll players with extremely limited shooting ability. You also have to pick and choose when to throw the ball in the post to them. If Splitter can develop a similar big-man-to-big-man passing chemistry that DeJuan Blair enjoys with Tim Duncan, eventually Splitter can be the game-closing big man that many hope to see.”
In a game that turned from an offensive shootout to a defensive slugfest, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Indiana Pacers by the score of 90-86 and win their season-high fourth consecutive game. For the second time this season, Jameer Nelson was the hero for the Magic in the waning moments. With Orlando down by a single point, Nelson’s fallaway jumper with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter proved to be the winning basket. The shot, plus the foul and the free throw, put the Magic up by two points at 88-86 and after James Posey missed a potential game-winning three for the Pacers, Vince Carter‘s free-throws iced the game and polished off another victory. Orlando was led by Dwight Howard, who had 25 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks. Rashard Lewis broke out of his shooting slump and chipped in with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
This was a fascinating game to watch.
In the first half, neither team could stop each other.
And for Indiana, it was the Roy Hibbert show. Similar to when the Magic and Pacers faced off against each other in early January last season, Hibbert was thoroughly outplaying Howard in the first and second quarters. Hibbert executed beautifully from the high and low posts, mixing in a nice blend of face-up jumpers and hook shots that translated into 17 points in the first half. Hibbert could do no wrong, as he was able to get Howard in foul trouble and subsequently take advantage of Marcin Gortat when he checked into the game. Make no mistake, Hibbert was on pace for a huge night for Indiana but the tables turned in the second half.
Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Rashard Lewis has always said his favorite type of shot is the dunk, which is surprising since he’s known for his feathery jump-shot and finesse game around the basket. A dunk boosts a player’s adrenaline and gets the crowd into the game, he says, so he’d rather slam one home than sink a jumper. Perhaps that’s why Lewis played so well Thursday night — he dunked not once but twice in the [Orlando] Magic‘s blowout win over the Phoenix Suns. Lewis finished with 13 points, but it felt like 30 with the way he’s been playing lately. In the Magic’s previous three games, Lewis shot 28.5 percent from the field and averaged 7.7 points per game. Lewis shot 6-of-9 on Thursday night, a welcomed efficient performance from the 31-year-old. [...] It’s the first time he’s really felt good after a game since scoring 22 points against Charlotte in on Nov. 6. Since then, Lewis has found himself under consistent scrutiny as Magic fans suffered through his shooting slump as badly as he did.”
Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “Hedo Turkoglu probably doesn’t want to be on the Orlando Magic, and the Magic probably don’t want him. It’s not just that he’ll make an average of eight figures over the course of the contract he signed upon leaving Orlando a year and a half ago; though I’m guessing that helps. He wanted a temperate scene that more closely approximated the European brand of ball that he grew up with (if not his youth spent in Turkey), and I can’t blame him. Some of us like cold weather. Which is why he flirted with Portland, before signing with Toronto. The problem was that his terrible play in Toronto allowed for a trade to Phoenix, which (I’m sorry, Orlando, but this pasty mug was miserable down there) is far more preferable to the dry heat and sports-bars-at-every-turn-with-ranch-dressing-and-light-beer-to-spare environment in Phoenix. Not a fan of either, but intense humidity does tip the scale.”