All season, Orlando’s offense could only be described as “broken.” Possessions would get bogged down like the Magic were playing with a medicine ball on a molasses court, “rhythm” was like a word from a foreign language, and they had enough bricks to single-handedly build the new downtown stadium. Then, at perhaps their darkest moment of the season, when a win was needed most but seemed the least likely, everything just...worked. It wasn’t amazing, but by the Magic’s standards, it was a breath of fresh air. The Magic used that solid offense and what’s become their trademark smothering defense to get their first double-digit win of the season, 95-83. Except for their garbage-time bench unit in the final minute of the game, every player on the court was a net positive for the Magic. Serge Ibaka led the way with an efficient 18 points on 7-11 shooting along with 7 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. Kahwi Leonard led the Spurs with 21.
The first quarter was a brutal one on both sides, and it looked early on like another repeat performance of the same story from all season. Still, while Orlando could only muster 16 points, their defense kept them within range the entire time. That defense would remain strong for the entire length of the game, especially around the rim, bouncing back from a poor showing in that area on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks. Scoring was fairly balanced on both sides for the period, except for Aldridge, who led with 7 points. San Antonio took the first quarter 20-16.
While the Spurs’ offense remained at about the same level the rest of the game, the Magic’s offense finally woke up in a very encouraging, if very mundane way. Orlando was able to find smooth, in-rhythm shots most of the night by playing very simple basketball, using pick-and-pops all night with Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic, but also finding opportunities for all three big men to roll. When they weren’t dishing to the big men, the Magic’s guards found chances to take open jumpers. Throw in a few drive-and-dish plays, add in the plentiful transition opportunities thanks to their 12 steals, and you have the recipe for a solid night of offensive basketball. Of course, it wouldn’t mean anything without the defense, which hounded the Spurs all night long to the tune of just 37% shooting on the night. Orlando’s all-around great play gave them the halftime advantage, 45-43.
The third quarter went even better than the first, with the Magic continuing their steady offensive attack while not letting off the defense at all. In particular, Orlando was able to abuse Spurs big men Pau Gasol and David Lee in the painted area, finding open lanes and pocket passes to get easy shots around the basket. While Aldridge ended up having a good scoring night, sinking several of his patented midrange jumpers on the way to 16 points, Orlando was able to keep Leonard in check from the field. While Leonard did salvage his efficiency with an 8-9 night at the line, both Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green were able to stay with him and contest nearly all of his shots. While Gordon didn’t contribute much in the way of box score stats, the Tuesday night victory represented a big bounce-back game in his second consecutive start. He was even able to collect a highlight alley-oop from C.J. Watson (though lost another opportunity for one later when he and Biyombo hilariously collided going for the same wide-open lob). Orlando never let up, and expanded their lead to double digits going into the final period, 75-64.
The last quarter bogged down again on both sides, with the Magic’s offense slowing down and the Spurs committing numerous mistakes leading to several more turnovers, bringing their total to an uncharacteristic 18 on the night. Orlando once again used a balanced scoring effort, with eight different players scoring in the period. They at one point led by 17 before Manu Ginobli hit a few buckets against the Magic’s end-of-the-bench mob. The win in San Antonio was Orlando’s first since 2009, and it breaks what had been a rough 4-game losing streak.
Orlando travels to Memphis to play on Thursday.