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Thunder 102, Magic 94: Magic’s dreadful three-point shooting proves costly

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The Magic shot 3-for-22 from deep and dropped their third straight

NBA: Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

For a while, it seemed like the Magic might actually crack 100 points for the first time this season.

While elements of the Orlando offense improved, specifically the team’s ability to get to the free throw line, the Magic simply could not make a three in their 102-94 loss to the Thunder. The Magic made just 3 of 22 attempts from deep, and again shot under 40 percent from the field overall.

“The three-point shooting obviously is the difference in the game,” Steve Clifford said afterward. “They made 12, we made 3. That’s 27 points. It’s hard to win when it’s that much of a discrepancy.”

Still, the Magic managed to stay in the game by getting to the line, where they shot 27-for-31, this just one game after mustering only 7 of 11 free throws against Denver. But the offensive struggles were too much to overcome as Evan Fournier forced shots, Terrence Ross was passive, Nikola Vucevic struggled from the field, and the Magic were unable to make that final push.

The Magic’s cold shooting started early as they made just 36.8 percent of their attempts and had five turnovers in the first quarter, where they trailed by as many as 11. Orlando chipped away by getting to the line nine times in the first, making all of them. Gordon led the way offensively with eight points on 3-for-7 shooting. The Thunder meanwhile shot 54.5 percent in the first, including 5 of 11 from three. A bucket by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who had seven points in the first, opened a 26-15 lead for the Thunder with 4:15 remaining. The Magic held the Thunder to two field goals over the remainder of the quarter to pull within 31-26 heading into the second.

Giving the Magic a first half spark was none other than Al-Farouq Aminu and Mo Bamba, who each had seven first half points. Bamba, who scored all seven of his points in seven first half minutes before going scoreless in the second half, drained a three that gave the Magic a 37-36 lead with just under nine minutes left. He was also very active on the defensive end, blocking shots on consecutive possessions, one of which was of the chasedown variety....

The Magic shot the ball better in the second quarter but struggled to slow the dribble penetration of the Thunder’s three point guards, and also allowed five offensive rebounds for 14 second chance points. Gilgeous-Alexander had 17 first half points on 6-for-8 shooting to lead Oklahoma City, which shot 52.4 percent in the half.

D.J. Augustin had eight points off the bench in the half, including a bucket with seconds remaining to pull Orlando within 58-53 heading into the break. Gordon finished the half with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The Thunder again increased their lead in the third after a three by Terrance Ferguson gave OKC a 68-59 advantage. Markelle Fultz then helped orchestrate a 6-0 Magic run with a pair of baskets and a kick-out to Nikola Vucevic for the 20-footer than trimmed the deficit to 68-65. Terrence Ross, who didn’t attempt a shot in 11 first-half minutes, took and made his first shot with three minutes left in the third, pulling the Magic within one at 74-73. Orlando continued to get to the line, making 23 of 27 attempts through three quarters, to keep it close at 81-79 after three.

The defense picked up for both teams in the fourth. The Magic’s first basket of the quarter came nearly four minutes in when Ross found Vucevic for the layup to even the score at 83. Orlando would make just four more field goals in the game, shooting 5-for-19 overall in the fourth quarter as the Thunder pulled away. Another three by Gilgeous-Alexander sparked a 9-2 Thunder run for a 95-87 OKC lead with 2:09 to go. That all but sealed the win as the Magic were limited to just 15 fourth quarter points and dropped their third straight game.

Gordon had a team-high 15 points and also added eight rebounds and three steals. Isaac, Fultz, Aminu and Augustin all finished with 13 points each. Vucevic shot just 4-for-15 from the field and was limited to 10 points as Orlando shot 39 percent from the field and had 14 turnovers. The Magic didn’t get a three from either Fournier (4 points, 0-for-7 FG, 0 of 2 from three) and Ross (6 points, 2-for-5 FG, 0 of 1 from three), who combined for only 10 points on 2-for-12 shooting.

Gilgeous-Alexander had 24 points to lead the Thunder, who shot 43 percent but connected on 12 of 33 three-point attempts to outscore the Magic 36-9 from deep. Chris Paul addd 20 points and six assists and Danillo Gallinari had 16 points.

The Magic, now 2-5 and still trying to reach that 100-point milestone, head to Dallas to face the Mavericks on the second night of back-to-back.