Whatever funk the Orlando Magic found themselves in during the month of January, February has seen a return to the team that looked like a playoff team.
Unfortunately, they were playing the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. Despite a spirited effort, the Magic fell to the Spurs 98-96 when Kawhi Leonard drilled a 19-foot jumper as the clock ticked toward zero.
Despite playing without veterans Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs never panicked even when trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter. Such comebacks are not new to San Antonio.
The Spurs jumped out to a 29-23 lead at the end of the first quarter as Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge each scored nine points. Leonard’s layup with 2:40 left in the first half gave San Antonio their largest lead, 50-40.
After an Orlando timeout, the Magic scored the final 11 points of the half to take a 51-50 lead into the dressing room. Victor Oladipo’s three-pointer from the corner at the buzzer capped the run.
The Spurs regained the lead in the third quarter, but the Magic went on a 22-7 run to close the period and take a 79-67 lead into the fourth quarter. Evan Fournier led the Magic with 10 points in the quarter.
Orlando got the lead up to 81-67 just 1:30 into the final period, but everyone knew the Spurs would make a run. San Antonio chipped away until Aldridge made a turnaround jumper with only 1:09 left to give the Spurs the lead.
With the Magic trailing 96-93, Evan Fournier tied the game with a three-pointer with 13 seconds remaining. Leonard broke the Magic fans’ hearts just a few seconds later. Elfrid Payton had a chance to tie the game, but missed a difficult reverse lay-up at the buzzer.
Leonard led all scorers with 29 points, while Aldridge added 21 for San Antonio. Fournier had a huge game for Orlando, pouring in 28 points. Nikola Vucevic added 20.
“Coach talked about winning plays you have to make at the end of the game,” said Vucevic. “We had a great game, but we let it slip away.”
The Magic fell to 23-29 on the year, while the Spurs improved to 45-8. San Antonio owns the second best record in the NBA.
Orlando and the rest of the league now take nine days off for the All-Star break. They return to action on February 19 when the Dallas Mavericks visit the Amway Center.