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Orlando Magic 110, San Antonio Spurs 84

The Orlando Magic dominated the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night, 110-84, for their 9th win in their last 10 games. Vince Carter scored 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting with 8 assists, while Rashard Lewis broke out of a slump to score 20 of his own on 7-of-10 shooting. What was billed as a showdown of All-Star centers Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard turned into a perimeter-oriented game, with Howard limiting Duncan to 5 points on 1-of-10 shooting, the worst performance of his career; Howard, himself mired in foul trouble, only added 9 points and 7 boards of his own for Orlando. Spurs wings Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili combined for 38 of San Antonio's points and kept the Spurs in the game in the first half with fellow starters Duncan, Antonio McDyess, and George Hill misfiring. But apart from a pair of late first-half three-pointers by Matt Bonner, no other Spur got it going offensively with the game still interesting. About the only negative for Orlando is that reserve small forward Mickael Pietrus badly rolled his left ankle trying to plant his foot in the second quarter and had to be helped off the floor.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Spurs 85 99.3 45.6% 13.8 20.0 13.0
Magic 87 126.6 59.2% 36.6 15.6 11.5
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

With Orlando winning so many of its games by wide margins lately, I'm running out of things to cover in these recaps. What stood out to me, though, was the Magic's ball movement. The Spurs indeed elected to send double-teams Howard's way, and Howard found the open more often than not, with the ball then swinging to a cutter or to the weak side for an open look. Howard tallied 2 assists, but would have racked up several more "hockey assists" had this game, uh, been hockey. Against a strong defensive outfit like the Spurs, that's impressive.

Carter, in particular, seemed acutely aware of the defense's openings before anyone else on the floor, rifling passes to cutters for much of the first half. He also connected with Howard on a pair of second-half alley-oops, from difficult angles. The 8 assists are a season-high for Carter, and demonstrate that he's growing more comfortable in Stan Van Gundy's offense. Oddly, his best pass of the night didn't result in an assist: he grabbed a defensive board just in front of the rim, turned up the floor, and fired a 50-foot chest pass to a cherrypicking Matt Barnes, who inexplicably blew the wide open layup in transition. That goof aside, Barnes had another solid game, with 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Carter's scoring and shot selection were also on point, sinking 3 of his 4 three-point attempts in the first quarter while taking nothing but two-pointers and foul shots the rest of the way.

After Orlando's 28-point first quarter, I doubted the Magic could maintain that pace the rest of the way, given their hot start from the outside. But they were able to largely because of the Spurs' tired legs. San Antonio played in Miami last night, and won, but clearly was a step or two slow in this game. After a while, they proved incapable of sticking with Magic players off the dribble and resorted to fouling instead.

Every player tonight, on both sides, scored at least two points. Fan-favorite point guard Anthony Johnson put up 6 in 6 minutes, both times sinking long jumpers while drawing a foul and converting the three-point play. At one point late in the game, Johnson and Jason Williams shared the backcourt, with J.J. Redick playing small forward. When Van Gundy trots out such a lineup, it can only mean that the outcome isn't in doubt. Tonight, the outcome favored Orlando, which controlled the game from tip to horn.