The struggling Orlando Magic may need a Festivus Miracle tonight in order to defeat the streaking San Antonio Spurs, arguably the league's best team, at Amway Center in their third straight contest against strong postseason clubs. Orlando, happily, will not be drastically undermanned on the front line as it was in Tuesday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks; Ryan Anderson is set to return from a sprained right mid-foot, giving Orlando an extra big man against a deep, skilled Spurs front which includes Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, and Matt Bonner.
San Antonio has been a model of consistency this year, using the same starting five in each of its 28 games. Orlando has used 10 different ones already, owing to injury, illness, trades, and garden-variety experimentation.
What's changed for the Spurs? The pace at which they play, which strongly affects how teams choose to defend them. San Antonio is pushing the pace this season, trying to exploit teams in transition, which maximizes the skill-sets of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Richard Jefferson.
The Spurs are also bombing away from three-point range, connecting on 40.9 percent of their triples this season. Orlando must account for the Spurs' shooters. They'll have four high-volume, high-percentage shooters on the court tonight: Bonner (52.4 percent on 3.7 attempts per game), Jefferson (45.7 percent on 4.1 attempts), Gary Neal (40 percent on 3.6 attempts), and Ginobili (36 percent on 6.6 attempts).
Strangely, the Spurs have yielded 40 percent three-point shooting to their opponents this year, which is rare among elite defensive teams, where San Antonio usually rates. But it's important to note the Spurs are among the best teams at limiting trey attempts, at just 15.5 per night. Orlando will have to work extra hard to create three-point chances tonight.
The Magic will wear their black alternate uniforms tonight for just the second time this season, and their first at home. I'm at Amway to cover the game live. It ought to be a good one.
|2010/2011 NBA Season|
|25-3 (9-1 road) |
|16-12 (9-5 home) |
|December 23rd, 2010|
|Fox Sports Florida / TNT|
|Tony Parker||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Manu Ginobili||SG||Jason Richardson|
|Richard Jefferson||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|DeJuan Blair||PF||Brandon Bass|
|Tim Duncan||C||Dwight Howard|
|November 22nd: Spurs 106, Magic 97|
|2010/11 Advanced Stats|
|93.1 (11th)||Pace||91.3 (19th)|
|113.5 (1st)||ORtg||105.3 (T-17th)|
|103.9 (9th)||DRtg||102.1 (5th)|