The San Antonio Spurs (12-3) are traveling to the Amway Center to go head-to-head with the Orlando Magic tonight (5-8).
The Spurs are on a four game winning streak and coming off tough back to back wins against Toronto in a double overtime thriller and a dominating performance against the winless Washington Wizards. I had the opportunity to talk to Orlando Magic Daily's Philip Rossman-Reich to help get some insight on what we can expect to see from this new look Magic team.
Philip discuss how the Magic are adjusting without Dwight Howard, the sixth man matchup, and more.
Jose: With Orlando at 5-8, how has the team adjusted without Dwight Howard at the center position?
Philip: The adjustment at the center position is still very much a work in progress. Nikola Vucevic has some talent and has some skill but he has not quite gotten to the point where he can consistently use it. Against Boston on Sunday, he sat out most of the second half and all of the tense moments at the end. Orlando is still figuring out what it has in the second-year center. The Magic are not running their offense through the post anymore, to say the least. That has means the Magic are taking much fewer 3-pointers and are struggling to get open 3-pointers. This is a team that has to work incredibly hard offensively to get good looks in the half court. It certainly is a brand new team.
Jose: What Magic player has shown the most improvement so far this season?
Philip: J.J. Redick has impressed me the most this season. We all know he can shoot and he has taken a larger role in the offense. I think most people expected him to be able to handle that. What I do not think anyone expected was for his passing to improve this dramatically. Redick is dishing out 5.0 assists per game and dishing out a 27.0 percent assist rate. Those would both be career highs if he keeps them up. It is very visible though how much Redick has improved as a playmaker this year so far. He is very dialed in and playing very well.
Jose: With the Spurs being thin at the small forward position with injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson, how will San Antonio fare against Orlando with Gary Neal starting at the shooting guard position and Danny Green moving over to starting small forward?
Philip: The Magic tend to go very small with their lineups. With Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington out, the Magic are starting rookie Maurice Harkless at the three and play J.J. Redick and Aaron Afflalo on the wings late in games. It is very possible to match up with Orlando then because of this lack of size late and the lack of experience early. Not that teams should sleep on these players. Harkless is out there to provide some energy and learn the game, so he attacks the offensive glass hard and does a good job defensively. Redick and Afflalo are also pretty solid players who know how to execute late in games. Is there an advantage there? I don't know.
Jose: The bench match up pits Manu Ginobili vs. JJ Redick. Who has the advantage between the two?
Philip: Manu is probably the overall better player and he can do more off the dribble than Redick. But if Ginobili is guarding Redick and has to chase him around screens, it could be a long night for Ginobili. Somehow I doubt Gregg Popovich will have him do that when they share the floor. Both teams get a ton of offensive balance and can get scoring from just about anyone on their bench. Ginobili could potentially do a lot more so I give him and the Spurs bench the edge.
Jose: What's your prediction and why?
Philip: I think San Antonio will win. The game should be close through three quarters, but I think San Antonio's size and experience will win out. That is how Boston won in overtime Sunday in Orlando and I have the feeling Orlando will have some of the same problems on the offensive glass. The Magic will continue to play these good teams tight, but they are not quite at the level to win these type of games yet. But it would not surprise me if the Magic keep it tighter even later and eke out a win. Then again, San Antonio could just as easily suffocate the Orlando offense and win this one with ease. This Magic team is still hard to figure out.