The San Antonio Spurs improved their record to 14-2 on Friday with their 108-91 victory against the Orlando Magic, whose winning streak ended at two games. A 17-0 San Antonio run in the second period effectively put the game away.
"They're really good," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of his opponents Friday. "They test your discipline and your ability to do the right thing on both ends of the floor [on] every possession. That's why they're 14-2."
Orlando, meanwhile, stands at 6-10 and is preparing to embark on a 12-day, six-game roadtrip.
Here's a look at the stories that developed Friday.
Duncan dominates Vučević
Depending on one's assessment of Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vučević has been Orlando's best or second-best player in the young season. The third-year center struggled mightily against the defending Western champs, however, missing eight of his 12 shots and committing eight turnovers en route to finishing with 12 points.
His counterpart, Tim Duncan, turned back the clock with an effortlessly efficient performance. The future Hall-of-Famer contributed 19 points, nine rebounds, and two assists on 8-of-13 shooting in just 23 minutes.
"I enjoy going against him and tonight I didn't do a good job," Vučević said. "Hopefully the next time I will. It's hard when you go against a guy like him. He kinda schooled me tonight. I just gotta learn from it."
Vučević picked up a technical foul in the third quarter for arguing a call and was also whistled for offensive basket interference twice. His play reflected his level of frustration.
"I got a little frustrated," he said. "I can't have that happen."
Vaughn thinks Vučević might have just had a rough night. "It was one of those 82 [games] and he'll climb back on the horse and we'll get after it again," he said. Vučević himself attributed his struggles to a combination of the Spurs' defense and his own shots just missing. "Some looks were pretty good that just didn't fall for me," he said.
As his profile around the league continues to rise, so will his placement on opponents' scouting reports. Vučević will have to deal with extra attention, as he learned Friday.
"That's part of me growing as a player, [making] adjustments, and tonight I didn't do a good job," he said.
Nelson's absence obvious
Jameer Nelson, the Magic's starting point guard and leader in assists, missed his first game of the season Friday due to a sprained left foot. His absence clearly impacted the team, and it's worth noting that seven Orlando players recorded at least two assists, but none had more than five.
"I think we got the ball where we wanted to throughout the course of the night," Vaughn said when asked for comment on that specific quirk in the stat sheet. "Did we miss Jameer? Yes. But overall you gotta give credit to their defense."
"The game is easier for me when he's out there, but unfortunately he got hurt," Vučević said. "I gotta be able to play well when he's not on the court."
With Nelson sidelined, Victor Oladipo slid from shooting guard to point guard. He committed only two turnovers--a positive sign, given that he has four games with five-plus turnovers in his 16-game career--but only finished with two assists as well. He'll continue to adjust to that position, having played shooting guard in college.
"Tonight like this was a good challenge for him against a really good team," Vaughn said.
Oladipo said it felt "fine" playing point guard Friday.
"I just gotta keep learning, just keep running the team," he said. "Taking charge and being more vocal and just go out there with a confidence and keep playing. Playing hard on both ends and trying to impact the game in a positive way."
According to Afflalo, there's "nothing" the Magic can do differently with their starting point guard out. "Just wait for him to get back," he said. "Hopefully he won't be out too long."
Andrew Nicholson said the Magic will indeed miss Nelson, but added that "we have guys who will step up." One such player is Ronnie Price, the veteran point guard whose five assists led Orlando against the Spurs. He also added five points and three rebounds.
Odds and ends
- NBA fans and analysts often discuss the Spurs' blueprint for success, but Afflalo is skeptical that such a thing exists.
"I don't know if it's their blueprint or their personnel," Afflalo said. "I don't know that you could just apply what they do to any team and think you'll be successful. They've got good players. The longevity of their success and what they've done is probably in large part because of Tim and Manu [Ginóbili] and Tony [Parker]."
- San Antonio entered the game shooting 73.6 percent from the foul line, a significant drop-off from the 79.1 percent they shot from there the previous season. One reporter asked Spurs coach Gregg Popovich when he will get concerned about his team's inaccuracy from the foul line.
"Never. Nothing to do about it," he said. "They either go in or they don't. You practice them like everybody else. What are you going to do? Fret? Go on hunger strike until they make more free throws? Threaten them with their lives? Concern is a waste of time. Practice, work at it. They go in or they don't."
San Antonio proceeded to shoot 17-of-17 from the foul line against Orlando.
- The Magic celebrated Eighties Night on Friday. For the occasion, Stuff wore a black wig and his blue Magic jersey features a zebra-striped star on the back, among other eighties-inspired decorations. The Magic Dancers did routines to popular songs from the decade, including Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go."
Were it not for a jumper by Solomon Jones with 59 seconds to play, the Magic might have scored in the eighties as well. That deuce gave them 90 on the night, with Doron Lamb later adding a technical free throw for the final margin.