Heading into Friday evenings contest between the San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic, both teams were bottom-15 teams on offense.
Knowing that both teams have issues on offense, the game was likely going to come down to which side played better defense. That was the case for the Spurs as they swept the Magic in the regular season by relying on their defense to hold Orlando to 89 points, while San Antonio scored 102.
“I think our defense is what won us the game tonight,” said Thaddeus Young after the win. The defense has been crucial in all three of the Spurs’ wins through nine games, as San Antonio remained undefeated when holding their opponent below 100 points in a game.
The 89 points they held Orlando to was a season best for San Antonio. Let’s dive into the win for San Antonio.
Relying on the Defense
Despite not having Jakob Poeltl, the Spurs were active in limiting the Magic from having success in the paint. Orlando scored just 40 paint points and they shot just 50% when attempting a shot in the paint. That 50% accuracy is a season best for the Spurs’ defense, because teams normally shoot 58% in the paint against the Spurs. The Spurs totaled 7 blocks, more than their season average, with Young being responsible for 3 of the 7 blocks for the team.
The Spurs were once again active on defense, with 61% of the Magic turnovers coming from Spurs players making steals.
Dejounte Murray and Devin Vassell each finished with 3 steals, while Drew Eubanks and Young collected 2 steals each.
With Poeltl out against Dallas in the last loss, San Antonio allowed the Mavericks to collect an opponent season high 15 offensive boards. Against Orlando, the Spurs crashed the glass and only allowed 7 offensive boards to the Magic, a number below San Antonio’s season average. Both Murray and Derrick White finished with a double-double, as they each collected at least 10 rebounds. Keldon Johnson was close to a double-double with 9 rebounds.
Tough Night on Offense, but Enough Points for the Win
Offensively it was a tough night for San Antonio with their shots anywhere on the floor. They shot just 49% from the paint, 32% from three, and 45% from mid-range, all percentages that were below a point per shot attempt.
One area that helped the Spurs was the free throw line, where they’ve struggled this season. San Antonio knocked down 16 free throws and a made a season best 89% of their foul shots.
In a game where both teams are struggling offensively, the mid-range shot can be a crucial shot. This was evidenced in the fourth quarter, when the Magic got the Spurs’ 16 point lead down to 7 points.
With Orlando making a run, it was Murray who knocked down back-to-back mid-range jumpers to push the Spurs’ lead back into double digits, to avoid having to go into crunch time for a 7th game this season.
“We weathered the storm when they made a run,” said Johnson after the game.
20 of the Spurs’ points came from mid-range, with Murray accounting for 10 of them. The Spurs outscored the Magic by 14 from the non-paint two.
Six Spurs players ended the night in double figures, with Murray scoring 20 points, Johnson scoring 14 of his 20 points in the paint, Devin Vassell scoring 12 points off the bench, White scoring 12 points, Young scoring all 12 of his points in the paint, and Doug McDermott scoring 10 points.
The Spurs are now 3-6 this season and they’ll be off Saturday before resuming play on the road in Oklahoma City Sunday against the Thunder.