SAN ANTONIO – The Spurs should have stayed on the road.
The Silver and Black were hoping that the momentum of a sweep on a three-game road trip last week would carry over to their clash against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night at the AT&T Center. It didn’t.
The Magic used a stifling defense and some big shots to carve out a 95-83 victory that snapped the Spurs’ nine-game winning streak and dropped them to 14-4.
More importantly, San Antonio slipped to 4-4 at home. That’s three more losses than they had at the AT&T Center all of last season, when they finished 40-1 and tied the 1985-86 Boston Celtics’ record for the best single-season home record in NBA history.
While the Silver and Black have struggled at home in the first five weeks of the season, their 10-0 start on the road is a franchise record.
“It is hard to explain, even for us players who are on the floor competing,” Spurs center Pau Gasol said. “It is not like we are trying to lose games at home, and go on the road and get all of them. We understand the importance of each and every game, but we are just going to have to translate it to better play, at home especially.”
Coach Gregg Popovich lit into the Spurs after they struggled to beat injury-depleted Dallas 96-91 in their last home game before leaving on the three-game road trip last week, calling their performance “pathetic.” His tone was different Tuesday night. He didn’t blame the loss on his players’ lack of effort and energy.
Popovich credited the Magic (7-11) for taking the game from the Spurs with their physical play and aggression. Orlando, 11th in the Eastern Conference, broke out of a four-game skid with the victory.
“They played very well,” he said. “I thought their defense was really solid, and I thought it put us on our heels most of the game. We held the ball a lot because of their defense. They made shots, and they just played better.”
Asked whether the Spurs’ effort level was an issue, Popovich replied: “No, that wasn’t it at all.”
But there’s no doubt the Magic were more physical than the Spurs.
“As I said, overall I thought their defense was aggressive, it was physical, and we held the ball too much in response to it," Popovich said. "You can’t hold the ball against that. You’ve got to make officials make calls. You can’t let people climb into you. You’ve got to be in attack mode.”
The Spurs shot only 36.8 percent (28/76) overall and were 5 of 20 (25 percent) from the 3-point line. San Antonio also finished with a season-high 18 turnovers.
The game was the front end of a back-to-back for the Spurs, who play at Dallas on Wednesday night. Despite the problems they’ve had winning at home consistently, the Silver and Black’s 14-4 record is tied for the second-best start in franchise history after 18 games.
Still, each loss at home has stung a little bit more.
“We know that we haven’t been playing well,” veteran guard Manu Ginobili said. “We lost too many games, and a couple that we won we didn’t play well, either. But on the road it is not the same, so I can’t really point to what’s going on. It is very unusual for us, and we have to fix it.”
Spurs nemesis Serge Ibaka scored 18 points to lead Orlando, which shot 45.3 percent (39/86) overall and 40 percent (6/15) from the 3-point line.
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 21 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 16. Manu Ginobili (13) was the only other San Antonio player scoring in double figures.
Tony Parker, who had played well since returning from a knee injury, had a tough night. He went 0 for 6 from the field and finished with only two points, and had more turnovers (4) than assists (3).
The Spurs led 20-16 after one quarter, but Evan Fournier hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to put the Magic on top 45-43 at halftime. The Silver and Black took their last lead, 54-53, on two free throws by Leonard with 8:17 left in the third quarter. But Orlando outscored them 22-10 the rest of the period to take a 75-64 lead into the final quarter.
“We’ve got to try to see what is going on,” Ginobili said. “We’ll be watching video often and we’ve got to fix it. Offensively is the problem, the ball is not moving. We are forcing the issue too much. We are kind of stuck, so hopefully we get that ball moving better and sharper.”
Here is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Magic's 95-83 win over the Spurs on Tuesday night:
Final: Magic 95, Spurs 83
Fourth quarter (5:01): Magic 87, Spurs 74
Fourth quarter (7:40): Magic 81, Spurs 70
End of third quarter: Magic 75, Spurs 64. Orlando outscores San Antonio 22-10 after Spurs go up 54-53 with 8:17 left in the period. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge lead the Spurs with 18 and 12 points, respectively. Serge Ibaka is the Magic's top scorer with 14 points.
Third quarter (2:02): Magic 71, Spurs 62
Third quarter (5:34): Magic 61, Spurs 58. Orlando has hit a pair of 3-pointers in first half of third period.
Halftime: Magic 45, Spurs 43. Evan Fournier hits a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put Orlando up by two at halftime. San Antonio had gone ahead 43-42 on a 3-pointer by LaMarcus Aldridge with 4.1 seconds left.
First-half notes: LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard lead the Spurs with 10 and nine points, respectively. S.A. shot 43.2 percent (16/37) in the first half. They hit 42.9 percent (3/7) of their 3-point attempts. . . . Center Serge Ibaka led Orlando with nine points and five rebounds. . . . The Spurs bench outscored the Magic reserves 20-19 in the first two quarters.
Second quarter (5:22): Magic 27, Spurs 24. The Silver and Black are off to another slow start at home. Spurs starters have seven turnovers and three made shots so far.
End of first quarter: Spurs 20, Magic 16. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the Silver and Black with seven points.
Pregame notes: Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon, who has missed six consecutive games with a sprained left knee, will play against the Magic on Tuesday night, coach Gregg Popovich said during his pregame session with the media. Dedmon hasn't played since injurying his left knee in third quarter of a 94-90 win over Miami at the AT&T Center on Nov. 14. Dedmon played two seasons with Orlando before signing with the San Antonio as a free agent in July. Asked what Dedmon has brought to the Spurs, Popovich said: "Just what you'd expect. He's a role player, defender, runner, rebounder." . . . The Spurs started Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus and Pau Gasol. The Spurs are 7-0 when that group has started a game together.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Silver and Black playing better on road than at home
Orlando Magic (6-11) vs. Spurs (14-3)
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, AT&T Center
Spurs’ last game: Beat Washington 112-100, Saturday, Washington, D.C.
Magic’s last game: Lost to Milwaukee 104-96, Sunday, Orlando, Fla.
Notable: Spurs are 10-0 on the road but only 4-3 at home.
SAN ANTONIO – After the Spurs capped a three-game road trip Saturday with a 112-100 win over the Washington Wizards, Gregg Popovich joked that he wanted to go home – but didn’t want to play at home.
Who could blame Popovich for feeling that way?
After all, the AT&T Center wasn’t exactly a home-court advantage for the Silver and Black in the first month of the season. The Spurs (14-3) are 10-0 on the road, but only 4-3 at home. That’s quite a comedown for a team that went 40-1 at the AT&T Center last season, tying the 1985-86 Boston Celtics for the best single-season home record in NBA history.
Riding a nine-game winning streak, the Spurs host the Orlando Magic (6-11) Tuesday night in the front end of a back-to-back. Although they’ve won their last three homes games, the Silver and Black struggled to win at home in the first 10 days of the season.
After beating New Orleans in their home opener, the Spurs lost three in a row on their court to Utah (106-91), the Los Angeles Clippers (116-92) and Houston (101-99). San Antonio hadn’t dropped three consecutive games at the AT&T Center since December 2014.
The Spurs have defeated Detroit (96-86), Miami (94-90) and Dallas (96-91) in their last three home games. The Dallas game was the Silver and Black’s last at home before they left town for the three-game, four-day road trip that ended with the victory in Washington on Saturday. They won at Charlotte (119-114) last Wednesday and at Boston (109-103) on Friday.
The Spurs couldn’t leave town fast enough after they struggled last Monday to beat a Dallas team decimated by injuries. Popovich was so upset after the game that he described his team’s performance as “pathetic.”
S.A. played without LaMarcus Aldridge (rest), Tony Parker (rest) and Dewayne Dedmon (knee), but the Mavs had four players out with injuries, including future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
“I thought we showed a lack of humility, a lack of respect for the opponent, a very pathetic performance at both ends of the court, both in execution and in grunt, in fiber, in desire,” Popovich said. “It was an awful performance. Oh, and they deserved to win the basketball game. I forgot to say that.”
The Spurs have attributed their inconsistent play at home to a lack of energy and focus, which is baffling considering the grit they’ve demonstrated on the road since rolling to a 129-100 rout of two-time defending Western Conference champion Golden State in their season opener in Oakland.
"Mindset-wise, we're coming home to where trying to defend home court is the priority at the moment for tonight's game," backup guard Patty Mills said after Tuesday's shootaround.
Veteran guard Manu Ginobili was blunt while assessing the narrow win over Dallas, which trailed 92-91 before San Antonio secured the victory with four consecutive free throws in the final 15 seconds.
“It was a very poor game,” he said. “We didn’t bring the energy we needed to bring against any NBA team . . . We were irresponsible and not as sharp as this league demands you to be.”
Mills was asked why he thinks the Spurs have played better on the road than at home.
"I don't think you can put it down to just anything just yet," Mills said. "Obviously, it's still early. There is that, I guess, extra sense of focus, whatever it is, when you play on the road because you understand how hard it is to win games on the road.
"We can't deny that we're going to need to be focused as anything, coming home knowing our record at home. Being definitely being focused and bringing that energy more than we did in our last home game is what we need to have tonight."
The Spurs are banking that the momentum they generated on their most recent road trip will carry over to their play at home.
Aldridge and Parker scored 24 and 20 points, respectively, in the victory against Washington. Kawhi Leonard added 19 points for the Spurs, who shot a sizzling 53.3 percent (40/75). The Silver and Black’s bench was also outstanding, outscoring the Wizards’ reserves 35-18. Jonathon Simmons (15) and Patty Mills (13) led the Spurs’ bench scoring.
Next up for Spurs: at Dallas, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
Next Spurs home game: vs. Washington Wizards, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
(© 2017 KENS)