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Spurs 122, Magic 111: Amidst Dwight Howard Trade Drama, Tony Parker Runs Circles around Orlando

Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE
Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE

In their final game before the 2012 NBA trading deadline, the Orlando Magic dropped a 122-111 decision on the road against the San Antonio Spurs. All-Star point guard Tony Parker sliced and diced the Magic's defense in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of his game-high 31 points in just nine minutes on 6-of-7 shooting. On the second night of a back-to-back, and on one of the most dramatic days in franchise history, Orlando lacked the defensive intensity required to contain Parker. Or any Spur, for that matter; San Antonio's 122 points are the most it's scored in a single game all season, as well as the most points the Magic have allowed in a single game all season.

The defeat wasted the second straight brilliant performance from Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson, who shot 9-of-15 from the floor for 25 points. The eight-year veteran also hauled in five rebounds and dished seven assists without a turnover.

In what might be his last game in Magic pinstripes, Dwight Howard scored 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished an assist, tallied two steals, and blocked two shots. However, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year came up a step or two short on his defensive rotations throughout the game, and particularly in the fourth quarter, in which the Spurs shot 8-of-11 in the painted area for 16 of their 33 points.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 90.2 123.1 58.7% 11.6 19.0 8.9
Spurs 90.2 135.3 59.6% 27.7 26.8 6.7
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

This defensive performance from Orlando wasn't simply garden-variety bad: San Antonio scored 122 points in a slow game, with an estimated 90 possessions for both teams. The rate of 135.3 points per 100 possessions exceeds what the Western Conference All-Stars managed in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has every right to be disgusted with his team's effort on that end of the floor. Even given the wild circumstances surrounding Wednesday's game, the team ought to have been able to defend better than an All-Star team.

That's not to say that the Magic didn't try; it's not as if they affixed a stamp to this game and lost by 40. They executed well--just eight turnovers on the night--and did darn near everything correctly on offense.

The first period really set the tone for the game: the Magic jumped out to an 18-8 lead--their largest margin of the night--but let the Spurs back into it. Gary Neal drilled a three-pointer at the horn to give San Antonio a 36-35 lead after the first 12 minutes.

Hedo Turkoglu drilled a three-pointer at the 8:23 mark of the fourth period to give Orlando a 96-95 lead, but Parker answered with a layup 20 seconds later to stake his Spurs to a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Rookie swingman DeAndre Liggins brought Orlando to within a point about a minute after that, but free throws from Tiago Splitter on San Antonio's next possession boosted Orlando's deficit to three.

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 PM Eastern. We'll soon learn if Wednesday's defeat was the last gasp for this Orlando team as presently constructed.

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