The San Antonio Spurs are hosting the Orlando Magic tonight for the second meeting of the season and first at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
The Spurs are struggling as of late and have dropped their last two games against possible playoff opponents. The Magic are going through their own woes this season. Their 19-56 record this season hasn't been a pretty sight, but they are currently in a rebuilding process with a young roster poised to make noise in the NBA for the next years to come. I caught up again with Philip Rossman-Reich of Orlando Magic Daily to discuss this game and what we might expect tonight from both teams.
Jose: What do you think this game will mean to Jacque Vaughn in his first appearance as a head coach against Gregg Popovich?
Philip: I think it will mean a lot to Jacque. The preseason game in Orlando meant something to him and he still seems pretty close with several of the players. What little experience he had as a coach he got with Popovich and the Spurs, and I think he is very appreciative about that.
Vaughn is not going to let the emotions get to him though. He has shown time and time again that he will keep an even keel in his approach to the game and will have that intense focus. He has always been a guy that does not get too fiery and emotional during games. So I would bet he will have his focus on what he wants to get accomplished Wednesday and leave the pleasantries for before and after the game.
Jose: How different is this team with the departure of J.J. Redick?
Philip: That is really hard to say. The Magic definitely lack the same kind of floor spacing they had with Redick out there and Redick did a lot of little things, especially on defense, that kept the team together. His competitiveness was contagious for a lot of the young players.
Since the trade though, the Magic have faced numerous injuries (Arron Afflalo is out for the year with a partial tear of his hamstring and Jameer Nelson is currently out with a sprained ankle) and have shut down veterans Al Harrington, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu (it seems). Orlando is letting the young players on the roster get their opportunity to play. That was definitely part of the reason the Magic traded J.J. Redick. You will see plenty of Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris tonight. And that is what the Magic want right now. Let these young players take their lumps at the end of this season.
Jose: What advantage do the Magic have against the struggling Spurs?
Philip: There might still be an element of surprise with this Magic team. A lot of people would suspect that a squad with nothing to play for would roll over and die when facing any large deficit or going through any drought. Orlando though has shown a proclivity to fight. Against Houston on Monday, Orlando was down 25 points and trailed by 18 in the first quarter. The Magic did not get the deficit to single digits until late in the fourth quarter. That is the kind of fight the Magic want to see from this young squad. And that is what you can expect from the Magic moving forward this year.
Jose: Who should the Magic be worried most about on the Spurs?
Philip: Tim Duncan or Tony Parker (whichever of them actually plays in this game). Orlando is still facing a talent and experience deficit against a team like the Spurs and the Spurs should be able to use that to their advantage. The Magic will go through dramatic swings of strong offensive and defensive play throughout a game. Consistency, anchored by these two All Stars, will go a long way to securing an easy win over a 19-win team. The Magic simply do not have the consistency on defense to stop them right now if they are focused.
Jose: What's your prediction for the game?
Philip: I think the Magic will keep it close-ish for a while. The Spurs won't run away with it. Not until the fourth quarter at least. Orlando is going to show that it can fight, but San Antonio after that tough loss to Memphis and prepping for that tilt with Oklahoma City takes care of business with a relatively uneventful 13-point win.