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Thunder 101, Magic 98: Orlando comes up just short in OKC

Kevin Durant tallied an effortless 28 points on Sunday, helping the Thunder barely escape the Magic.

Thabo Sefolosha, Arron Afflalo, and Russell Westbrook
Thabo Sefolosha, Arron Afflalo, and Russell Westbrook
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic put up a great fight against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, but fell by a 101-98 final, their second straight loss. The Thunder improved to 12-0 at home.

Kevin Durant led all scorers with 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting, while Jeremy Lamb added 16 off the bench for Oklahoma City. Arron Afflalo tallied 25 points to pace Orlando, including nine in the fourth quarter, and Jameer Nelson had 13 while shooting 4-of-7 on three-pointers.

The game got off to an inauspicious start for the Magic as Victor Oladipo fumbled the ball away and Russell Westbrook scooped it up, drove the other way, and finished with a one-handed jam. That basket gave Oklahoma City the first two of its 17 first-half fast-break points. Given how lethal Westbrook and the Thunder's wings are in transition, to say nothing of Serge Ibaka's threat as a trailer, it would be imperative for Orlando to control the ball.

Oladipo struggled in that regard, as one might have expected against the Thunder's defense: he committed four turnovers in the first half, all of them in live-ball situations, but Oklahoma City only converted two of them into scores.

To the Magic's credit, they found a way to stay in the game, even with the Thunder's bench coming up aces behind Lamb and Reggie Jackson. Nik Vučević played a big role in Orlando's first-half success, tallying 10 points and 10 boards.

A 9-0 run from the Magic tied the score at 45 with 3:38 to play, but that's when Durant came alive. The future Hall-of-Famer scored eight points in a 10-0 Oklahoma City run as the hosts took their first double-digit lead of the night. Nelson closed the first half with a deep three-pointer over Kendrick Perkins to keep Orlando within single-digits at 56-49.

Orlando's offense played unselfishly and effectively in the first half, provided that Oladipo wasn't the one initiating it. And defensively it did almost everything it could; there's nothing the Magic can do against Oklahoma City in transition, but its set defense stayed committed to bumping the Thunder off their spots. Were it not for OKC's going 11-of-11 on the stripe before halftime, the Magic would have been even closer.

The Magic continued to hang around early in the second half, with Nelson's fourth triple of the game at the 6:21 mark of the third bringing the Magic to within five of OKC. After coach Scott Brooks called timeout, the Thunder responded with a 6-0 run, with Thabo Sefolosha scoring four of those points on a put-back dunk and a driving layup in transition.

That stretch typified the Thunder's performance throughout the game: anytime Orlando put any sort of run together, the Thunder managed to respond, even if those runs didn't quite put the Magic away. Consider that an Afflalo three-pointer, created off great double-team recognition by Vučević in the post, cut OKC's lead to eight with 3:27 to go in the third. Over the next 92 seconds, the Thunder went on a 6-0 run to boost their lead to 14, their largest of the night. Orlando ended the third facing a 12-point deficit.

After an Oladipo turnover led to yet another Westbrook transition bucket, the Thunder took a 16-point lead. Orlando then scored the game's next eight points off back-to-back jumpers from Afflalo, a Tobias Harris transition finish, and an Oladipo show-and-go finish around Perkins.

Durant, again, asserted himself, finding Westbrook for an alley-oop to end Orlando's run, and then running a one-man fastbreak by rebounding a missed Nelson triple and taking it to the rim for an easy deuce.

The Magic, as they did all night, refused to fold: a triple by Afflalo brought Orlando to within four points with 31 seconds to play, capping an 8-0 Orlando run. For Orlando, given its talent level, to be within two possessions of the Thunder in Oklahoma City is victory enough.

Orlando isn't satisfied with "victory enough": after a Thunder timeout, Maurice Harkless and Oladipo double-teamed Westbrook near midcourt and forced a turnover. Nelson came up with the loose ball and flipped it to Harkless for a dunk that cut OKC's lead to two points.

Durant split a pair of free throws on OKC's next possession, giving the Magic the ball and 13 seconds with which to score three points to tie the game. Davis' step-back three coming out of a timeout barely drew iron. The referees initially ruled that Ibaka goaltended Vučević's putback layup, but video review showed that the fourth-year big man rejected it cleanly before the shot hit the backboard.

As a result of that reversal, the teams jumped it up at center court with 1.3 seconds to go, and time ticked away before Orlando could get another shot off.