In one of their ugliest performances in recent memory, the Orlando Magic fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 102-74, to drop to 5-2 on the season. Poor shooting, lazy defense, an utter lack of effort... this game is one the Magic would like to forget. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 20 points and 7 boards, while Mickael Pietrus added 15 points off the bench. Kevin Durant scored 28 points for the Thunder, who placed three other players in double-figures. Orlando allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 57.1% from the field and 56.2% from three-point range. In joking that the Magic resembled the 2003/04 squad that lost 61 games, Twitter user whatthenoelle had the best line of the season so far, writing, "The Magic apparently traveled to Oklahoma in a Delorean."
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Indeed, shooting was the story. The Thunder got open look after open look against the Magic's defense, while not giving the Magic many similar opportunities at the other end. Sure, maybe J.J. Redick (2-of-11 overall, 0-of-6 on three-pointers) had some bad bounces on open shots, but otherwise, the Thunder's active defense prevented the Magic from getting anything going offensively. No rhythm whatsoever. And as Magic color man Matt Guokas pointed out, Redick's tendency to fade away on his shots didn't help his cause.
One sequence midway through the second quarter effectively turned the tide in Oklahoma City's favor, and may have prompted the Magic to pack it in. After a tremendous alley-oop connection between Jameer Nelson and Pietrus bumped the score to 35-31 in Orlando's favor, Russell Westbrook took a feed from Kevin Durant on the left wing and drilled a three-pointer. Marcin Gortat airballed a baby hook on the Magic's ensuing possession, leading to an off-balance transition three by Durant with Westbrook assisting. A Nelson dish led Gortat into the lane for a dunk to knot the game at 37, but Thabo Sefolosha--who's quicking becoming one of the league's best three-and-D specialists--swished a wide-open trey from the right wing to give Oklahoma City a three-point edge. The Thunder sank as many three-pointers in that 88-second stretch as the Magic did the whole night.
But this is a game the Magic could have won, had they matched the Thunder's defensive effort. Coach Stan Van Gundy harped on this point in his post-game comments, bemoaning his team's lack of toughness and engagement on defense. He said the Thunder would have won this game even if the Magic's missing players (Ryan Anderson, Vince Carter, and Rashard Lewis) been available. Frankly, it's hard to disagree. Even before Anderson left last Friday's game against Detroit with a sprained ankle, the Magic had played below-average defense for most of the season. Orlando won plenty of games last year with its defense, the league's most efficient. The same trend hasn't held up, and I'm in firm agreement with Van Gundy when he says his team will continue to lose games like this one until the players step up their effort.
Is it gloom-and-doom time in Orlando? Almost. There's no shame in losing to a better team--and the Thunder are the better team, when accounting for the Magic's missing players--but there is shame in mailing in a game like this one.