Jeremy Lamb's pull-up jumper with 6.3 seconds to play lifted the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 79-78 win against the Orlando Magic, completing an improbable comeback. Grant Jerrett led OKC with 14 points and four three-pointers, while Andrew Nicholson had 19 and Doron Lamb had 16 for Orlando.
Victor Oladipo missed 10 of his 12 shots against an OKC defense which was keyed to stop him.
Thunder center Daniel Orton started strong against his former team, scoring six of Oklahoma City's first eight points. He's noticeably more trim than in prior years, and he never appeared to be overly fatigued.
Orton's strong play early came at the expense of Kyle O`Quinn. On one play, the second-year center didn't get back down the floor in time after committing a loose-ball foul. The opportunistic Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson pushed the ball and found Orton underneath for an easy, uncovered hoop.
The Magic made good use of Andrew Nicholson on the left block, using the threat of his post scoring to suck defenders to him. One one crisp play, he hit Doron Lamb for an open and in-rhythm three. On another, he dropped a dime to a cutting Rodney McGruder for a floater. Nicholson wasn't much of a playmaker as a rookie, but he does seem to have improved his awareness as a post passer. That's an important development for him, if it sticks, because it'll make him a threat to contribute offensively even if he's not scoring.
The Thunder were clearly preoccupied with Nicholson, judging by their defense against him in the second half. Thunder players made sure to deny him the ball, shouting "no catch! No catch!" and pointing to Nicholson. They also sent occasional double-teams from the weak side in order to disrupt his rhythm on post-ups.
After an aggressive and explosive Summer League debut, Victor Oladipo played a more reserved game Monday. Playing at point guard once again, Oladipo found Oklahoma City making a concerted effort to bottle him up on pick-and-rolls. The Thunder preferred to yield a pass to an open Magic perimeter player than to allow Oladipo to turn the corner, though he did manage to get all the way to the rim at the 7:15 mark of the second quarter for an acrobatic layup. As a result of the Thunder's sound defensive gameplan and execution, Orlando struggled to create drive-and-kick looks.
Doron Lamb kept Orlando in the game in the first half. The second-year guard continues to shoot effectively off the catch, for two or for three. While he's not much of a shot-creator, he's able to get himself open off the ball, a valuable skill. He finished the first half with 12 of the Magic's 38 points, shooting 4-of-7 from the floor.
The second half opened with more aggressive, but not undisciplined, defense from the Thunder on Oladipo. He made better reads and didn't appear to force the issue, hitting O'Quinn for an easy jumper at the top of the key rather than trying to create an opening where there wasn't one. "All day! All day!" Oladipo shouted after O'Quinn drained the shot.
The Thunder struggled offensively to open the second half, not that they were gangbusters in the first, either. OKC couldn't create open looks. The Magic are among the most disciplined and communicative defenses I've seen in four years covering this event, and they work hard to take away their opponents' first option on every possession. The fact that their players have quick hands and are able to deflect passes also helps them disrupt the action.
Jerrett, the 40th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, was Oklahoma City's most consistent offensive option, flashing to the top of the key for open three-point looks. Orlando couldn't seem to run him off that shot, and if the Thunder were able to deliver him the ball, he'd shoot it with a consistent, smooth release.
In order to release the Thunder's pressure on Oladipo in the second half, the Magic adjusted to run staggered screen-and-rolls with O'Quinn and Nicholson, giving defenders more traffic to navigate if they wanted to stay in front of Oladipo. Even if they managed to keep the rookie guard in their sights, Nicholson's dives to the rim and O'Quinn's pops to the top of the key created passing lane, which Oladipo was able to use.
A three-pointer by Kyle Kuric, his second of the game, brought the Thunder to within four points with less than two minutes to play. Nicholson lost control of the ball on a post-up, leading to a Thunder steal and a pair of free throws for Jeremy Lamb. He converted both, bringing Orlando's lead to two with 88 seconds to play. Dwight Buycks followed that with an open three-point erfrom the right wing to put Orlando up one.
On Orlando's ensuing possession, Maurice Harkless drove hard to his right and tried to throw down a one-handed slam, but had to settle for drawing a foul. He converted both free throws, but Buycks put OKC back in the lead with a driving layup.
A pair of foul shots by Doron Lamb put Orlando up one with 23.3 seconds to play. Jeremy Lamb answered for the Thunder, shaking Harkless with a behind-the-back crossover from his right to his left and then draining the jumper. Orlando turned the ball over on its next possession, ending the game.
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