The Oklahoma City Thunder handed the Orlando Magic its worst loss of the season on November 8th, granted with only nine players suiting up for Orlando, so one had to imagine that the Magic wanted to give the Thunder a dose of its own medicine last night. Mission accomplished, as Orlando was able to come away with a lopsided victory by the score of 108-94. Lopsided because this game was over after three quarters, when the Magic were up by 30 points (yes, the Thunder were coming off a back-to-back). It was a team effort from Orlando, as six players finished the game in double-figures. Leading the way for the Magic was Rashard Lewis, who had 17 points (7-16 FG, 2-6 3PT), 10 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 steals. Lewis was one assist shy of a triple-double, which would have been the first one in his career.
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From the opening tip, Orlando came out and played with tremendous energy. It started with Vince Carter in the first quarter, as he was able to knock down some jumpers on offense, as well as make some hustle plays on defense. On one possession in particular, Carter dove on the floor for a loose ball and was able to find Jason Williams with the pass, which triggered a fast break capped off with a dunk by Mickael Pietrus. Once the play was over, Vince tapped the floor in satisfaction, knowing that his hustle was rewarded.
Speaking about Pietrus, he played well in the period. He was able to get things going offensively, attacking the basket in the fast break or in the half-court, as well as making his patented three-pointer from the corner. Likewise, Pietrus' defense on Kevin Durant was outstanding. Time after time, Pietrus forced Durant to put up a tough shot with a hand in his face. By the end of the evening, Durant's stat-line was as followed: 12 points (4-12 FG, 0-4 FT), 1 assist, and 5 turnovers.
As for Jason Williams, he did what he was asked to do - chip in on offense and distribute the basketball. Williams had 3 points and 3 assists in the first quarter. Nothing special, but Williams played within himself.
In the second quarter, the second unit for the Magic was able to extend the lead. Lewis started the period at small forward, alongside Ryan Anderson, and the combo went to work on the offensive end of the floor. For Anderson, he was able to make a three and sink a layup after faking a pick/cutting to the basket. For Lewis, he ran a 3/5 pick & roll with Marcin Gortat, who proceeded to throw down a tomahawk dunk that got the Orlando players sitting on the bench standing up on their feet. Also, Lewis nailed a three of his own in the corner.
Midway through the period, Carter checked back in and proceeded to knock down back-to-back threes on consecutive possessions - the first from a pass by Lewis and the second off a 2/5 pick & roll with Dwight Howard. After Howard was forced to check out with three fouls in the quarter, Carter was able to keep things going in the 2/5 pick & roll with Gortat by converting on a layup.
As for Gortat, he had a good sequence in the period that's worth noting - came up with a block on James Harden, converted an and-one on offense after recovering a loose ball, and drew a charge on Durant while he was trying to attack the basket. Granted, Gortat fumbled the ball here and there while he was running the pick & roll, but he was playing smart basketball on both ends of the court.
The second half, specifically in the third quarter, was when the Magic blew the game wide open. The defense was the catalyst, which allowed Orlando to get stops and run out in transition, leading to layups and open threes. But when the Magic needed to execute its half-court sets, it did so beautifully. In a 4-out/1-in offensive set, Howard was able to post up and kick it out to Lewis for a shot after he pump-faked his defender - Jeff Green - to get an open look. Williams was able to make a pretty behind-the-back pass off an offensive rebound and find Lewis for the three, with the shot clock expiring. Howard was able to get some easy dunks - on an entry pass from Lewis, off a missed reverse layup by Carter - and a layup to boot, off an alley-oop pass from Lewis.
It was smooth sailings for Orlando, as everyone was able to contribute to the cause. Once the fourth quarter came, one could tell that the Magic had "checked out" for the night, as the Thunder scored 36 points due to the team suffering some defensive lapses here and there. At one point, Stan Van Gundy threatened to put Howard and Lewis back into the game as Oklahoma City went on a run but decided to send his two All-Stars back to their seats as Orlando was able to stabilize the lead following a few possessions. To the disappointment of fans, who were hoping to see Lewis get a triple-double.
Overall, a great win.
Defensively, the Magic players were, at times, suffocating. In the first quarter and the third quarter, Orlando held its opponent to shooting percentages of 31.8% (7/22 FG) and 18.2% (4/22 FG), respectively. Three of the Thunder's main offensive weapons - Durant, Green, Westbrook - combined for 33 points (12-36 FG). Only Harden, with 24 points (7-14 FG, 6-7 3PT), had an excellent performance on offense. Orlando contested shots, played great help-side defense, and rotated well. The effort, the energy, the enthusiasm, it was all there on the defensive side of the ball.
And with two games under his belt, Lewis has looked better with more and more minutes. Against Oklahoma City, Lewis was everywhere on offense and on defense. Green, as mentioned, didn't have an easy go of it because of Lewis' efforts, defensively. Offensively, Lewis displayed his full offensive arsenal, whether it was face up or with his back to the basket. At small forward or at power forward. Likewise, Lewis did a superb job of finding his teammates, and they obliged him by making their shots when the opportunities presented themselves. It was about as fundamentally sound of a game as you would want from a player.
Next up for the Orlando Magic are the Boston Celtics, two teams that will meet for the first time since the 2009 NBA Playoffs.