The Orlando Magic take on the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight at Amway Center, with an eye on avenging a one-point loss from earlier this season in one of their worst defensive performances under head coach Stan Van Gundy. They'll also try to reverse their recent trend of not defending the perimeter, among the topics they discussed in a team meeting yesterday, in the wake of their 111-105 loss to a 14-41 Sacramento Kings squad that, really, has no business defeating Orlando on its home floor.
The Thunder, clearly, present numerous challenges to the Magic's defense, and rather coincidentally have two weapons suited to exploit Orlando's shortcomings. All-Star small forward Kevin Durant, who leads the league in scoring, challenges everyone. At 6-foot-10 with a smooth stroke off the dribble, he can get a decent shot off from anywhere--except for a rack of balls behind the three-point line, it would seem. Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu can match him in height, but not in quickness, and his diminished speed means he has to give most opponents a bit of room. Durant can, and will, take advantage of that weakness. He had an effortless, 36-point outing against Orlando last month, shooting 13-of-17 from the floor and 8-of-9 at the free-throw line.
Point guard Russell Westbrook, who became an All-Star this year, is similarly equipped to punish the Magic. His lightning speed in the open floor makes him a nightmare to account for in transition, even if he makes some careless ballhanding errors. He compensates for his lack of an outside shot with frequent trips to the free-throw line, where he shoots 84.8 percent on 8.2 attempts per game. His athleticism makes him a great rebounder for his 6-foot-3 frame, and the fact that he logs heavy minutes as the primary ballhandler on a fast-paced team inflates his assist totals as well. The Magic may have to adjust their game plan, which had seen them pursue more offensive rebounds this season than in years past, to account for his dynamic scoring on the break.
Offense certainly wasn't a problem for Orlando in the first meeting. It scored 124 points, made half of its 28 three-point tries, and squeezed 39 points out of Dwight Howard. Indeed, locking down Durant and Westbrook has to be the Magic's priority. Oklahoma City's defense ranks below the league average, so the Magic will have holes aplenty to exploit.
|2010/2011 NBA Season|
|36-20 (16-12 road) |
|36-22 (21-9 home) |
|February 25th, 2011|
|Fox Sports Florida / ESPN|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Jason Richardson|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Brandon Bass|
|Nick Collison||C||Dwight Howard|
|January 13th: Thunder 125, Magic 124|
|2010/11 Advanced Stats|
|93.1 (12th)||Pace||92.2 (T-15th)|
|110.7 (6th)||ORtg||107.9 (13th)|
|108.1 (16th)||DRtg||101.9 (3rd)|
|Tommy Nuñez Jr.|