The San Antonio Spurs (25-3) will face the Orlando Magic tonight in Orlando coming off a tough-fought win over the Denver Nuggets last night.
The last time these two teams met, the Spurs came out on the winning end due to hot shooting from the three-point line and the Magic committing 16 turnovers.
The Spurs will also face a new look Magic with their new players Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson via a trade with the Phoenix Suns.
To discuss tonight's match-up, I spoke with fellow Bloguin NBA blogger Phil from Orlando Magic Daily which is by far the best Magic blog on the Internet.
In this Q&A we discuss the Magic's recent trade, why the Magic have been underachieving, keys to the game and more. To read the Q&A I did for Orlando Magic Daily click HERE.
Jeff: I know by now this sounds like a broken record but the trade to acquire Arenas, Turkoglu, and Richardson. Likes, dislikes and how does this help or hurt the Magic's season?
Phil: It appeared something was wrong, so a move had to be made. What that was is very difficult to put a finger on. Orlando's big weakness coming into the season was a lack of players who could create off the dribble. Vince Carter is not the player he once was and he could no longer carry the offense the way this Magic team needed him to.
I like the offensive potential this move brings. Turkoglu has proven he can be successful in Orlando's system. Jason Richardson is a guy who will fit in nicely. And Gilbert Arenas can still have big games here and there.
The potential is there. It is just a question of how this team will come together in the course of the season and whether they will play defense. This team is built on its defense and it has let them down these last few weeks. These guys have to be as committed to the defensive end as they are to the offensive end.
Coming into the new season the Magic were expected to be better than their 16-12 record. What seems to be the issue?
It is tough to put a finger on. The last time the Magic and Spurs met, the Magic were rolling ad we generally still felt good about this team. Orlando has just been knocked off its rhythm. About half the team got sick with a weird stomach virus. The team went out West and still has not figured itself out. Something happened on that trip that convinced this team a change needed to be made.
And so, we are starting from scratch. The issue is this team does not have the same defensive will it has had for the last few years. I was always amazed how the team was able to win games it had no business winning. That has not happened this year.
It seems like it is missing that one energy guy who can push others to play at a higher level. It is really hard to put a finger exactly on what is wrong. But you also get the feeling that if this team can get a victory and some confidence, things will correct themselves.
Alright let's discuss the game tonight. The last time these two teams met, the Magic committed 16 turnovers and allowed the Spurs to hit wide-open three-point shots (12-for-19). Obviously you cannot do this when playing the Spurs but what are other keys to the game for the Magic to get the win?
Yeah, it seems like a long time since that game happened. Really Orlando has to play together and fight in this one. There really is not much more this team can do. This will be the new guys' third game together so perhaps a little more progress should be expected and a little more cohesion. But mistakes are still going to be made. It is going to be important that this team just fight its way through it and forget mistakes. Orlando is still keeping things simple.
But more specifically, the Magic cannot allow Dwight Howard to get into foul trouble. This team, with the trade of Marcin Gortat, is really thin up front. Howard has to be in the game and he cannot get sucked into foul trouble. I would think San Antonio is going to attack him a lot.
If you are the Magic coach, you might be thinking, "OK we got the advantage in the paint but the guard combo of Parker and Ginobili will be a handful." What should the Magic do to limit this duo?
Again, Van Gundy is going to be preaching play defense as a team. Keep the man in front of you as best as you can and be there to help. A lot of the details of this defense are going to be missing, so these Spurs are going to be able to do some damage depending on how good Dwight Howard feels defensively (he has dialed some of his aggression back to limit his fouls, in my opinion). There may not be a lot Orlando can do just because the guys are not on the same page defensively yet.
There is a gaping hole at backup center for the Magic with the loss of Gortat. The Spurs have DeJuan Blair, Antonio McDyess, Tiago Splitter (if he gets time on the court), Matt Bonner and of course Tim Duncan. Do Dwight Howard and Brandan Bass shoulder more of the load tonight against the Spurs or do the Magic rely on something else to combat this glaring difference in size?
It depends if Ryan Anderson and Malik Allen are healthy enough to go. But yeah, it is all going to be on Dwight and Brandon to do the heavy lifting down low. They have their work cut out for them. Not sure if the Magic will be able to bring in another big man before Thursday.
Who wins the game tonight?
I am not optimistic about this stretch right now (we get Boston on Christmas). A team like the Spurs might be a little too good for the Magic to take on at this point in time. That is unless the team gets really hot and starts making jumpers. That is entirely possible. But my feeling is the struggles continue for a while and the Spurs get the win.