|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|November 18th, 2009|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Jason Williams|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Vince Carter|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Mickael Pietrus|
|Jeff Green||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Nenad Krstic||C||Dwight Howard|
|November 8th: Thunder 102, Magic 74|
The Orlando Magic will wrap-up their 4-game homestand tonight when the Oklahoma City Thunder come calling. For Orlando, it's a chance at redemption, as Oklahoma City dealt it an embarrassing, 28-point defeat just 10 days ago. The Thunder are 3-2 since then, including impressive road wins in San Antonio and in Miami. This team is clearly meant to be taken seriously.
The Magic? That's debatable. Sure, they're tied with 6 other teams for the league's 3rd-best record, but they have been a major disappointment so far, mainly due to their lackluster defensive play. They're 7th in point differential, but that's deceptive, given their soft early schedule. Through 11 games, they've only played 3 teams that have winning records as of now; they're 1-2 in such games, although it's noteworthy that the victory came over the Phoenix Suns, who own the best record in the league.
In any event, the Thunder and the Magic are a study in contrasts. The Thunder are a lottery team that's exceeding expectations; the Magic are an NBA Finalist that's coming up short. The Thunder have a consistent 9-man rotation, as the same starting lineup has appeared in all 11 games, with another 4 players coming off the bench in each; the Magic have been wracked by injuries, using 7 distinct starting lineups in 11 games, with their 8th coming tonight.
As hard as it might be to believe, the Thunder are winning with their defense; they're 3rd in defensive efficiency, and top-10 in three of the four factors. Their one glaring weakness on that end is their propensity to foul, as they're 29th out of 30 in free-throw ratio. There's a good chance the Thunder will force the Magic's offense to stall at times tonight, and when that happens, the Magic need to put their heads down and charge to the hole, hoping for a trip to the foul line. Ugly the game up. At this point, winning at all trumps winning pretty.
The game tips at 7. For those of you who plan to attend, get their early for your Vince Carter bobblehead.