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Oklahoma City Thunder 126 Orlando Magic 117: Magic rally in second half, but fall in fourth to Thunder

The Thunder led by as many as 15 in the third before the Magic stormed back, but Dennis Schroder took over late to knock off the Magic.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coming in losers of their last three, and six of seven, the Orlando Magic looked to kick off a three game home stretch on the right foot against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Thunder star Paul George had other plans, as George scored 31 of his game-high 37 in the opening half, as the Thunder took care of the Magic,

Russell Westbrook was relatively quiet on the night, but still notched his fourth straight triple-double with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists. Jerami Grant added 18, with Nerlens Noel, filling in for the injured Steve Adams, notching 12 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.

Nikola Vucevic’s 27 points, and 11 rebounds weren’t enough for the Magic, who finished with six players in double figures. Evan Fournier added 17, with Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross both finishing with 16.

Gordon got the Magic going early, attacking the Thunder defense from the start, drawing two quick fouls on Paul George. The attacking mindset trickled down to his teammates, with the Magic offense clicking on all cylinders in the opening quarter, notching 35 points.

The defensive end was a different story for the Magic, who couldn’t keep the Thunder from parading to the free throw line. Oklahoma City shot 12 free throws in the opening quarter, converting nine of them as the Magic struggled to defend without fouling the entire period.

Starting the second quarter, things didn’t go as smoothly for the Magic offense, who missed their first seven shots before a Mo Bamba three got them moving back in the right direction. Overall, the offense wasn’t the issue in the second quarter once again, knocking down three’s and finding some quality looks throughout the quarter.

As was the case in the opening quarter, the defense struggled. George, who will be a starter in next months All-Star game, made seemingly everything he threw up, leading to a career-high 31 points for a half. George’s 31 was part of the Thunder’s explosion for 69 first half points, the most the Magic have given up in the opening half this season.

Much like it has been over the course of the season, the Magic came out slow following the halftime break. Oklahoma City pushed their lead up to 15 following a set of three balls from Jerami Grant, Russell Westbrook and Hamidou Diallo.

Then, things quickly turned for the Magic.

Thanks to some improved purpose of play on the defensive end, the Magic began clawing their way back. Behind strong play from their second unit — led tonight by Jerian Grant and Jonathan Isaac — the Magic used a 28-5 flurry to storm back and take an eight point lead late in the quarter. Their defense on George was vastly improved, with the rising MVP candidate not scoring a single point in the quarter.

Once again, things came crumbling down for the Magic in the fourth quarter, this time at the hands of Dennis Schroder.

The former Atlanta Hawk took the game over for the Thunder, scoring 18 of the teams first 25 points in the quarter, vaulting them back to a 13 point lead. Orlando’s offense, as was the case in Sunday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets, stagnated in the quarter, failing to be methodical and find the shots that allowed them to roar back in the third. Schroder would finish the night with 21 off the Thunder bench.

A pair of three-pointers from Terrence Ross helped bring the Magic back within five out of a timeout, but George proved to be too much for the Magic late, as he sealed the game for the Thunder.