- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - It’s hard for LaMarcus Aldridge to explain why, but he was out of rhythm during the first five games of San Antonio’s current road trip.

His shot wasn’t falling consistently and something just seemed off.

But the Spurs’ power forward found his groove Wednesday night, shooting 10 of 13 from the floor for a game-high 23 points to spark a 107-79 win over the short-handed Orlando Magic as both teams headed into the All-Star break.

“I work hard and I get in the gym, so I’m not worried about not working hard,” Aldridge said. “It just happens, but I stuck with it and played more comfortable tonight.”

A big reason for that might have been the matchup issues the Magic faced against the 6-foot-11 Aldridge without Serge Ibaka to help out. Orlando traded its power forward to Toronto on Tuesday for Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round draft pick.

That left a smaller Jeff Green to try to match up on Aldridge early, and then the Magic attempted to put center Nikola Vucevic on him but he couldn’t step out and guard Aldridge on the perimeter. Aldridge hit his first two shots and scored eight of the Spurs’ first 12 points in the first six minutes of a game that was never close.

“For sure, especially when I miss the easy ones,” Aldridge said when asked if making the first couple of shots made it easier for him. “I make the first couple and then I start playing like myself and start taking shots that I take. Tonight I looked more like myself.”

The Spurs (43-13), second in the Western Conference, looked like themselves in every way, playing lock-down defense and unselfishly on offense. San Antonio limited the Magic to 39.5 percent shooting and forced them into 17 turnovers.

The Spurs moved the ball and consistently made the extra pass to find the open man. That was often on the interior as Kawhi Leonard, Dewayne Dedmon and Aldridge took advantage of an Orlando team that didn’t have enough big bodies to match up.

Leonard finished with 22 points and Dedmon added 10 points and 11 rebounds to help the Spurs lead by as many as 30 points.

“In some ways it wasn’t a fair fight,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team is 4-2 on its current road trip that continues in Los Angeles next week after the break. “They lost Serge and didn’t have a replacement here for him. So they were a little bit overmatched and that certainly helped us out.”

The Magic (21-37), who have made a concerted effort to shift to a smaller lineup in midseason, looked even more disjointed offensively than normal without their second-leading scorer on the floor. Ross did not dress because Ibaka had not completed his physical in time to make the trade official.

Orlando’s offense had no rhythm, with leading scorer Evan Fournier having an off night with nine points on 6-of-11 shooting and four turnovers. Vucevic led three Magic players in double figures with 16 points and 10 rebounds as the team fell to 9-18 at home.

“They have the kind of defense that forces you into 1-on-1 play and we’re more of a ball-movement team when we’re at our best, not an isolation team,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. “We tried to force into spots that weren’t there and were careless with our turnovers and it was very, very costly.”


Spurs: Aldridge had 13 points in the first quarter while shooting 6 of 7 from the field. … Popovich said he expects Pau Gasol (left hand) to return after the All-Star break. … Manu Ginobili left in the third quarter after falling awkwardly and then grabbing the back of his left heel. Popovich said he wasn’t sure what the extent of the injury was immediately after the game.

Magic: Green moved into the starting lineup at power forward in place of Ibaka. Green, who is 6-foot-9, started out guarding the 6-foot-11 Aldridge. … Starting point guard C.J. Watson injured his Achilles during the second quarter and did not return.


It was announced during the second quarter that the Magic-Raptors trade had been officially approved by the NBA. Ross passed his physical earlier in the day but was inactive because Ibaka had yet to complete his physical in Toronto. Ibaka passed prior to the game, but it was too late to activate Ross.


Spurs: San Antonio is in the middle of playing eight consecutive road games, with the final two on tap after the break. The Spurs don’t play again until Feb. 24 at the Los Angeles Clippers.

Magic: Orlando, in a stretch of five straight home games, hosts Portland on Feb. 23.

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