While Orlando has used that run to help clinch its fourth straight playoff berth, San Antonio could use a few more wins in its attempt to keep the NBA’s longest active streak of postseason appearances alive.
The Spurs will try to earn their ninth victory in 10 tries Wednesday night against the host Magic, who are trying to bounce back after their season-high eight-game win was snapped.
Orlando (47-21) clinched its spot in the postseason Tuesday night with Charlotte’s 99-94 loss in Indiana, but the Magic are still seeking their third straight Southeast Division title. They lead Atlanta by three, but the Hawks have two games in hand.
“This is the right time if you want to peak. Nobody wants to peak in the middle of the season. You want to do it at the end and start rolling into the playoffs,” the Magic’s Vince Carter(notes) told the team’s official Web site. “We’re playing better basketball, but we can also be a lot better.
“That’s why it’s important for us to finish out these games and fine-tune some of those little things.”
The Magic, though, missed an opportunity to pad that lead Sunday at home against the Bobcats. In a 96-89 loss, Orlando drew within a point early in the fourth quarter but didn’t have enough to take the lead.
“We weren’t very good at anything,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We didn’t rebound. We didn’t take care of the ball. We didn’t shoot well. We didn’t defend. We just weren’t very good at anything.”
With its surge, San Antonio (40-25) has climbed into a tie for sixth in the West as it searches for a 13th consecutive playoff berth. The Spurs, however, are just a game ahead of Portland in eighth and 5 1/2 up on ninth-place Memphis.
If San Antonio continues its recent impressive defensive efforts, it could make strides toward clinching a playoff spot. The Spurs have allowed an average of 88.5 points over the past eight games, including an 88-76 win in Miami on Tuesday, and have held seven of those opponents to less than 93 points.
That’s helped them overcome the loss of Tony Parker(notes), who has a broken right finger but could be back if the Spurs reach the postseason. San Antonio is 4-1 since losing its All-Star guard as Manu Ginobili(notes) has averaged 21.6 points per game starting in Parker’s place.
The Spurs started quickly against the Heat by limiting them to 14 points in the first quarter while building an insurmountable 15-point lead. Miami could get no closer than six points midway through the final period before Ginobili hit a key 3-pointer as part of his team-leading 22 points.
“Obviously with Tony down, he’s got the ball in his hands a little more and he’s a playmaker,” forward Tim Duncan(notes) said. “You can see it in his eyes. He wants the ball. He wants to make the plays.”
The Spurs, though, are in position for their third five-game winning streak this season. However, they had a relatively healthy lineup last season against Orlando and suffered their first season sweep to the Magic, including a 90-78 defeat at Amway Arena.