ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—Orlando forward Drew Gooden put it succinctly: “Same story, different day.”
The Magic’s losing streak reached 18 games Friday night as San Antonio’s Tim Duncan scored a season-high 47 points in a 105-94 victory.
Orlando’s shortcomings were all too common: Missed defensive rotations leading to easy baskets, surrendered offensive rebounds cashed in for second-chance points, a late letdown erasing whatever good was accomplished earlier.
Repeat 18 times, and that’s why the Magic are on a team-record losing streak.
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to win a basketball game,” said Orlando coach Johnny Davis, 0-7 since replacing the fired Doc Rivers. “Certainly, the more you lose the tougher it seems to get.”
The Magic came back from an 18-point deficit in the first half and held a five-point advantage entering the final quarter after Tracy McGrady had 16 of his 28 points in the third period.
But Orlando missed 16 of 21 shots down the stretch as the Spurs closed the game with an 18-7 run.
“Guys are playing the game hard—but everybody is playing hard,” said McGrady, who missed his final nine shots. “Let’s try to play smart basketball. At times we do that, but for the most part, we’re not. That’s why we’re giving away these games.”
Duncan shot 19-for-33 from the field and 9-for-13 from the line in falling six points shy of his career high.
“They weren’t really double-teaming me, so I had my chances to take my shots in the post,” said Duncan, whose scoring by quarter went 12, 10, 13 and 12. “I took them when they were there.”
Duncan also had 12 rebounds for his 15th double-double in 16 games. The Spurs outrebounded Orlando 45-33, and had 15 offensive rebounds for 18 second-chance points.
Rasho Nestorovic added 12 points for the Spurs, who snapped a four-game losing skid. Ron Mercer scored seven of his 11 points in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter to kick off the Spurs’ comeback.
Orlando, after falling behind 51-33 late in the second quarter, looked as if it would spend the rest of the night in a futile battle against the inevitable. The Spurs, it appeared, were too big, too disciplined and too good.
But the Magic’s third quarter was crisp. Tyronn Lue had a 3-pointer and three-point play on consecutive possessions to bring Orlando within two.
McGrady went to the free-throw line 11 times and made them all. His three foul shots with 8:15 left in the period put the Magic ahead 60-59 for their first lead since 12-11.
Orlando scored a season-high 36 points in the quarter, making 10 of 18 shots and 14 of 16 free throws. The Magic led by eight on McGrady’s 3-pointer with 4:32 remaining and settled for a 80-75 edge after three.
“That’s not what we do, that’s not the way we play defense,” Duncan said.
Mercer, with four points in the previous four games, then saved the Spurs. He hit a jumper, followed by a three-point play off a fast break, then another jumper. In less than 90 seconds, the Spurs had jumped ahead by two.
“He was ready and anxious for his opportunity,” Duncan said.
That burst prompted Davis to bring the starters back, although they were running on “flat tires,” as McGrady said. Not surprisingly, Orlando’s starting five shot 3-for-17 in the final quarter.
“We do have to rest,” McGrady said after a 44-minute night.
The teams traded baskets before San Antonio put the game away over the final eight minutes. Duncan’s easy basket in the post for a nine-point lead with 4:10remaining put him above the 40-point mark.
San Antonio has won five straight games against Orlando and 10 of the last 12. … The Spurs are 3-1 on the road against Eastern Conference teams, but have lost all six road games against squads from the West. … Before the game, San Antonio bought out the remainder of guard Anthony Carter’s contract. He had missed 13 games with knee tendinitis. … Orlando activated shooting guard Shammond Williams, who had missed nine games with a sprained left knee, and placed rookie guard Reece Gaines on the injured list with right knee patella tendinitis. … Spurs forward Malik Rose did not dress because of astrained tendon in his right ankle.