The Orlando Magic dropped their second straight game Thursday night, 125-124, as they were unable to string any stop together against an on-fire Oklahoma City Thunder squad led by Kevin Durant's 36 points and Russell Westbrook's 32-point, 10-rebound, 13-assist triple-double. Dwight Howard dominated with 39 points and 18 rebounds, Jason Richardson scored 19 points, and the combination of J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson combined for 33 points on 11-of-21 shooting, but the Magic couldn't answer Durant or Westbrook at the other end of the floor in the second-worst defensive performance of Stan Van Gundy's three-plus-season tenure as Orlando head coach. The Thunder shot 56.4 percent from the field, made hald of their 14 three-point attempts, and earned 37 free-throw attempts against a porous Orlando defense that failed to take anything away, letting Oklahoma City essentially run wild. And while it's true that Durant and Nenad Krstic made an unseemly number of long two-point jumpers, it's also true that the Magic were a step or two slow in defending them, so it's not as though we can let them off the hook, or chalk the loss up to Oklahoma City nailing difficult shots.
The Thunder jumped out to a 22-10 lead fueled by open shots on their end, setting the tone for what would become a long night for Orlando defensively. No amount of Howard jump-hooks or Magic treys should have been able to overcome such an onslaught from the Thunder, with Westbrook scoring with ease over Jameer Nelson in transition and Durant softly touching up long jumper after long jumper, yet the Magic only fell by a single point thanks to the Thunder's own poor defense.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
And that's the one positive to take from this game if you're Orlando: that the team scored essentially at will. Durant leads the league in scoring, and 28 points is an average night for him, so he'll get his. The bigger issue is the Magic didn't stop the ball in transition, nor did they rebound effectively. Letting Westbrook run roughshod over them is more of a problem than Durant's scoring is. On Twitter, I read a lot of messages from Magic fans calling for Nelson's head, but I'm not entirely sure what else he can do. Transition defense as a team responsibility, and in it's not like he can grow a few inches to better handle Westbrook. It's a question of asking far too much of one player, and focusing too much on his shortcomings. Nelson has trouble with taller point guards like Westbrook, Andre Miller, Baron Davis, Chauncey Billups. Almost everyone has trouble with those players!
Really, though, if Brandon Bass nails but one of his several missed 18-footers, or if Hedo Turkoglu makes two more free throws, to name but two hypotheticals, Orlando comes away with a big victory. I get that losing two straight after a 9-game win streak rankles the fans, but the losses came on the road, in a back-to-back situation, by a combined 4 points. Let's try to maintain perspective here.