The San Antonio Spurs found their first game against the Eastern Conference as part of their rodeo road trip much more to their liking than the contests against the West.
They’ll look to make it two straight wins Friday night when they continue the trek against the struggling Orlando Magic.
San Antonio (33-16) is chased out of its building this time of year because the rodeo takes over. It’s a trip the Spurs feel has helped them develop chemistry in the past—they went a combined 25-6 over the previous four seasons.
This trip, though, started with an overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers followed by consecutive losses to a pair of first-place teams in Utah and Phoenix. With the remainder of the trip against the weaker East, the Spurs took advantage with a 110-83 victory at Washington on Wednesday.
San Antonio shot 62 percent in the first half and led by double digits for all but the first 4:05 of the game.
“It was one of our better games of the year, very honestly, at both ends of the court,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Duncan made 9-of-16 shots as he dominated Washington’s smaller frontcourt, but should find more resistance Friday when he faces Orlando forward Dwight Howard. The Magic All-Star leads the East with 34 double-doubles, five more than Duncan.
The two power forwards had double-doubles against each other in both meetings last season as San Antonio and Orlando (25-25) split their series. Duncan averaged 28.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, while Howard countered with 17.5 points and 14.0 boards.
The Spurs have won five of their last six in Orlando, including a 110-85 victory on Dec. 5, 2005, in their last visit.
The Magic are trying to remain confident after losing their third straight, 113-103 at Toronto on Wednesday. They have dropped 11 of 14 to fall to the .500 mark for the first time since the second week of the season.
Wednesday’s loss overshadowed another outstanding effort from Howard, who made 13-of-14 shots for a career-high 32 points and nine rebounds. He made all nine shots the night before for 21 points and 11 rebounds in a 116-111 loss at Milwaukee.
“We just got to keep our heads up. Nobody in the league is going to say, ‘Well, the Magic are playing bad, let’s just give them a win,’” Howard said. “We’ll get it back right.”
Orlando’s inconsistent guard play has resulted in 17.0 turnovers per game, the second-worst mark in the league behind New York’s 17.1 per game. The Magic had 18 turnovers in Wednesday’s loss.
“We have to get better at those aspects of the game that we need to get better at and minimize our mistakes, tonight we had 17 turnovers and they had (nine),” guard Carlos Arroyo said. “They just played better than us tonight.”
The Magic have received a spark the last two games from Keith Bogans, who is averaging 17.0 points on 12-of-20 shooting in that span.