Spurs (4-0) vs. Orlando Magic (3-1)
When, where: 6 p.m., Friday, Orlando, Fla.
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Spurs 107, Magic 79, Feb. 15, 2017, AT&T Center
Spurs’ last game: Beat Heat 117-100, Wednesday, Miami
Magic’s last game: Beat Nets, 125-121, Tuesday, Orlando
Notable: The Spurs split their two-game series with the Magic last season.
With Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker sidelined, veteran forward/center Pau Gasol was asked about the team’s mindset three days before the Spurs opened the season.
Would it be a matter of holding down the fort until Leonard and Parker, both out with quadriceps injuries, returned?
Gasol was direct in his reply.
“It’s not so much as holding the fort, but just try to play the best we can with the guys we have available and try to win ballgames in the meantime,” he said. “You don’t want to just say you’re holding the fort or kind of take it, take it, take it until they come back. What you want to be is aggressive and play your best with the guys you have available.”
Then Gasol talked about what the Silver and Black had to do to be successful.
“I think that we focus on the things that we can control, focus on our defensive principles, make sure we play well offensively, unselfishly, and play right, execute,” he said. “If we do that, we still have a pretty good chance to beat a lot of teams in this league. Let’s see if we can start off well.”
So far, so good for the Spurs.
The Silver and Black started a four-game road trip with a 117-100 victory against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, pushing their record to 4-0. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 31 points and newcomer Rudy Gay added 22 to lead the Silver and Black’s scoring.
Although the Spurs won comfortably, coach Gregg Popovich criticized his team’s defense against the Heat.
“I think our defense did get better in the second half, but overall, I thought it was really mediocre,” Popovich told reporters after the game. “Just way too many mistakes. I thought their movement hurt us. They did a really good job of moving the basketball, attacking the rim, and we didn’t respond very well.
“We were fortunate. Rudy Gay got hot and he gave us a great run offensively, and LaMarcus was good underneath and was tough to handle. I think our offense got us through in this game because our defense was pretty mediocre.”
The Spurs continue their road trip against Orlando on Friday night. They play the Indiana Pacers on Sunday and face the Boston Celtics on Monday in their first back-to-back set of the season.
Aldridge had another strong game, making 12 of 20 shots and adding seven rebounds. Gay, who couldn’t even walk five months ago after tearing an Achilles tendon last season, gave the Spurs a big lift with his offense. He hit 6 of 8 shots and added four assists and two steals.
Gay played in only 30 games with Sacramento last season before sustaining the Achilles injury. He opted out of the final year of his contract with the Kings to sign with the Spurs in July.
Now in his 12th NBA season, Gay has proven to be a quick study in picking up the nuances of Popovich’s motion offense.
“You expect it to be quick,” Popovich said. “He’s a seasoned veteran. He’s a smart player. He’s a smart person, so figuring out a new system isn’t that tough for him.”
Danny Green (15), Manu Ginobili (14), Pau Gasol (13) and Kyle Anderson (12) also scored in double figures against the Heat. Green nailed 3 of 4 three-pointers. Brandon Paul was 2 of 2 from beyond the arc, and Ginobili was 2 of 5.
Former Spurs forward Jonathon Simmons signed with the Magic this summer after playing two seasons with San Antonio.
Up next for the Spurs after Friday’s game: at Indiana Pacers, 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Indianapolis
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