Tonight's Orlando Magic Game: at San Antonio Spurs

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The Orlando Magic will look to continue their recent stretch of brilliant play tonight when they take on the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Tonight's game tips just over 24 hours after last night's did, while the Spurs had a day of rest. In the first meeting between these teams, Orlando had two days' rest, while the Spurs were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. The tables, as they say, have turned. Orlando took that first meeting in a rout, as you might expect, dealing San Antonio its worst defeat in two seasons. Franchise center Tim Duncan missed 9 of his 10 shots, the worst shooting performance of his career. With those things falling into place, Orlando should have won by 26. Clearly, the same can't be said about tonight's contest.

2009/2010 NBA Season
Orlando Magic alternate logo
@
San Antonio Spurs alternate logo
53-22 (23-15 away)
Won 3
45-29 (27-11 home)
Won 1
April 2nd, 2010
AT&T Center
8:30 PM
Sun Sports
Probable Starters
Jameer Nelson PG George Hill
Vince Carter SG Manu Ginobili
Matt Barnes SF Richard Jefferson
Rashard Lewis PF Antonio McDyess
Dwight Howard C Tim Duncan
Previous Meetings
March 17th: Magic 110, Spurs 84
Advanced Stats
92.1 (19th) Pace 91.5 (23rd)
110.3 (8th) ORtg 109.9 (9th)
102.7 (3rd) DRtg 104.5 (9th)
Game Officials
Scott Foster
Tony Brown
Gary Zielinski

These teams make great foils for one another. I've written extensively on how similar the Magic's defensive strategy is to the one that the Spurs employed during their dynasty, and today, this post at 48 Minutes of Hell uses tonight's All-Star center matchup between Duncan and Dwight Howard to highlight the importance of building NBA teams around a big man, and not a guard:

Often times diversity, skill sets and statistics, especially offensively, are set as the standards for measuring greatness. So the following argument might be met with heavy opposition, but, Dwight Howard is a better basketball player than [Dwyane] Wade, [Carmelo] Anthony, [Chris] Paul and [Kevin] Durant.

Absurd? All the aforementioned players are certainly more skilled and offensively more dynamic right now than Howard will ever be. But can you honestly say that any of them make as big an impact on both sides of the floor?

Basketball analysis is hypocritical. On one hand, it’s cliched but accepted to say that defense wins championships. On the other, we measure greatness in terms of offensive statistics and skill set. Defense is generally left to role players and coaching schemes.

Well said. There's really a lot to like about watching these two teams matched up, which is why I'm a bit disappointed that both games between the two this season will feature the road team playing without the benefit of a day off.

Here's what Pounding the Rock prescribes for a San Antonio win:

All I can say is that [the Magic] are not great at defending the three ball. That means we have to live by the three and die by the three in order to pull this one out. A few mid-range shots, drive the lane to get Howard into foul trouble and threes, threes, threes.

I'd say the Magic should counter by working the ball inside to Howard. Yes, he'll have to tangle with Duncan, one of the modern era's finest post defenders. But I contend that this approach is more reliable than the three-ball. Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson, the Magic's starting backcourt, have combined to shoot 35-of-113 (30.9%!) from long range on the second half of back-to-back sets this season. That sort of inefficiency won't get it done against a well-rested, and actually pretty good team, on the road. Now, maybe Matt Barnes and Rashard Lewis can pick up the slack, if they can shake free of the Spurs' defense, as they've combined to shoot 66-of-155 (42.6%) in the same situations.

I say "actually pretty good" because the Spurs haven't received much respect this season. San Antonio's bad luck in close games has limited it to a 45-29 record, though it has the point differential of a 49-25 team, which makes it a sort of bizarro version of Dallas.

Tip's at 8:30.

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