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Thunder 117, Magic 104: Big Orlando second-half comeback attempt falls short

Oklahoma City roared out to a 27-point second quarter lead, only to see Orlando come to within four points midway through the fourth quarter before the Magic ran out of gas, as four Orlando starters played at least 40 minutes.

Russell Westbrook and Nik Vučević
Russell Westbrook and Nik Vučević

League-leading scorer Kevin Durant scored nine of his 26 points late in the fourth quarter, and point guard Russell Westbrook hit a key 3-pointer to help the Oklahoma City Thunder ward off a tremendous comeback effort from the Orlando Magic, 117-104.

Durant added nine rebounds, but turned the ball over six times. Westbrook finished with 23 points and six assists, while power forward Serge Ibaka added 20 points, six rebounds, and three blocks. Strong bench play from Oklahoma City was a big factor, as the Thunder reserves outscored the Magic reserves, 38-6.

Final - 3.15.2013 1 2 3 4 Total
Orlando Magic 26 30 28 20 104
Oklahoma City Thunder 39 34 22 22 117

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All five Magic starters hit double figures, led by Jameer Nelson's 26 points and seven assists. Center Nik Vucevic achieved a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and guard Arron Afflalo added 20 points despite shooting 0-for-6 from long range.

After Tobias Harris hit a three-pointer to give the Magic their only lead of the game at 3-2, the Thunder went off and rolling, outscoring the Magic, 39-26, in the opening quarter. Oklahoma City shot a blistering 71.5%, led by Westbrook, who scored ten points on 4-of-6 from the field along with four assists. Orlando was led by Vucevic and guard Nelson with eight points apiece.

Things only got worse in the second quarter for the visitors, as the Thunder opened the quarter making six of their first seven shots on their way to an 18-4 run to open up a huge 57-30 lead after two Kevin Martin free throws with 7:42 remaining in the half. Orlando then heated up, finishing the first half making eight of their last 11 shots, while Oklahoma City cooled down, missing eight of its final 14 shots of the half. That enabled the Magic to cut into the Thunder lead, but Oklahoma City still enjoyed a comfortable 73-56 halftime lead, thanks to 64.3 percent shooting, while Orlando shot 50 percent for the half.

The Orlando bench, missing rookie Andrew Nicholson due to illness, was outscored, 29-4, by the Oklahoma City bench in that first half.

The Thunder already had four players in double figures at the half, led by the duo of Westbrook (14 points) and Durant (12 points). Nelson led the Magic with 14 points and six assists, Vucevic had 12 points, and Harris added 11 points.

A Kendrick Perkins free throw gave the Thunder a solid 83-61 advantage five minutes into the third quarter, and looked like they would cruise to an easy victory, but the Magic had no plans to surrender at all. Orlando went on a 21-6 run to cut the Thunder lead to 89-82 with just over a minute remaining in the quarter. Vucevic scored seven points and Afflalo six points during this run to help get the Magic back in the game. The Thunder would get the lead back up to 95-84 entering the fourth.

A Martin jumper stretched the Oklahoma City lead to 101-88 with 10:08 remaining in the game, but Nelson scored five points to lead the Magic on a 11-2 run to cut the Thunder lead to 103-99 with 6:20 remaining. Orlando had three chances to cut the Thunder lead to two, but Afflalo and Nelson failed to convert on jumpers. With the Magic down 104-99, a Nelson layup attempt was blocked by Ibaka on a very close call that could have went either way. A three-pointer from Nelson brought the Magic to within 106-102 with 3:37 remaining, but then Durant went to work to finally help the Thunder seal the victory.

Oklahoma City outshot the Magic 55 percent to 43 percent for the game and pounded the Magic on the boards, 52-33. Normally an excellent free-throw shooting team, the Thunder shot only 67 percent from the charity stripe, though they did outscore the Magic 29-17 on free throws. The Thunder also committed 17 turnovers, compared to just 10 turnovers for the Magic.

In addition to the three Magic players with 20 points or more, Harris scored 19 points along with 6 rebounds, and 3 steals and was a perfect 10 for 10 from the free throw line. Rookie Maurice Harkless chipped in with 12 points and 6 steals.

The Orlando reserves shot a collective 3-of-12 for their six points, as three players scored two apiece.

The Magic travel to Milwaukee for a Sunday matinee.