Season 51, Game 05
San Antonio 87, Orlando 114

I suppose it’s good to get the first butt-kickin’ out of the way early.

When you shoot under 34% as a team, you’re likely to lose. When your opponent shoots a blistering 57% from the floor (and that went down in garbage time; it had been well over 60% for most of the game), you’re likely to lose. When both happen, you’re likely to lose by almost 30.

The Magic started the game with force and energy, and it completely took the Spurs out of the game. Yes, sometimes the shots don’t fall for you and they do fall for the other guys, but the effort begat the shooting performance, not the other way around. The Magic swarmed on defense and pushed on offense, and the Spurs just didn’t have the counter to keep up with them.

Ball game.

That marks two straight subpar defensive performances, both troubling in different ways. While the Heat were able to break the defense apart in the half court, the Magic caught the Spurs’ defense napping by pushing in transition. To be a great defense, you need to be solid in both. You can guess what happens to your defense when you’re poor in both.

This also marks the second straight game with poor PG play. Against Miami, it didn’t matter. Friday night, it was evident. While Murray has impressed early in his second season, he is not an All-Star yet. He will make mistakes and play poor games, and we’ll have to live with the results.

More troubling might be Mills’ slow start to the season. He looks just a half-step slower this season, which could lead to a huge dip in his performance. His game is predicated on energy and speed (and shooting), and if he loses even a bit in any category, he could fall off quickly.

This is something to monitor as we await Parker’s return. In essence: don’t be so quick to push Parker out the door just yet.

Let’s end this recap of a complete butt-kicking with some good observations, shall we?

–Rudy Gay looked good again. More than his scoring, I’m interested in everything else he is doing. He was solid on defense, registering 4 blocks and 7 rebounds. While he only scored 2 points, he did tally 4 assists. His floor game is looking much better than I was expecting.

–LaMarcus put in work again. The Magic had to gear their entire defense towards preventing him from getting the ball in the post. The rest of the Spurs’ offense wasn’t able to get it to him or take advantage of his gravity. But he did his job.

–One nice things about blow outs is a chance to see the younger / end-of-the-roster players. The player I enjoyed watching the most tonight was Derrick White. He looked comfortable out there, and played surprisingly good defense (in garbage time, sure). He might not have a role on this team this season, but he’ll be a player I’ll be watching closely whenever he does get minutes.

–Finally, the surprising stat of the young season: the Spurs are 1st in defensive rebound percentage and a shocking 3rd in offensive rebound percentage. Currently they are 2nd in the entire league in overall rebound percentage. One advantage of playing all these big and long players is that you can get a lot of rebounds. However, the offensive rebounding is a break in philosophy for Pop and the Spurs, who usually get back on defense over chasing offensive rebounds. But one way to keep “pace” with 3-point shooting teams (or, to slow them down) is to steal extra possessions on offense.

Time will tell if this is a real strategic change or just an early-season blip, but it bears monitoring.

The Spurs head to Indiana to face the Pacers on Sunday afternoon.

Go Spurs Go.