Thunder 105, Magic 102
Nuggets from my notebook from Thursday’s win at Orlando.
- I’m not sure what happened here tonight. All I know is the Thunder was dead in the water, staring at an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit one second and then had the lead the next. This was one of the most amazing victories in Thunder history.
- What made it so amazing was that the Thunder had nothing going for three quarters. OKC couldn’t get a good shot, couldn’t get a stop and didn’t look like it had a plan on how to do either. Then, all of a sudden, the Thunder did both.
- In the fourth quarter, the Thunder made 10 of 15 field goals. The Thunder held Orlando to 8-for-25 shooting in the period. It was a complete 180.
- The Magic was destroying the Thunder in the pick-and-roll, and just basic ball screens, all night. Orlando would throw two and three ball screens on the Thunder on every possession if need be. And the Thunder had no answer for it…until Thunder coach Scott Brooks decided to go small.
- Brooks: “We went small. We were switching a lot of their actions, and I thought they gave us some energy; gave us some juice. And it did. As the game went on, we got stronger defensively. We got stronger with our intensity.”
- Offensively, the Thunder was headed for a long night. The halfcourt offense looked non-existent, and on TNT no less. Charles Barkley had to be getting ready to serve up a big bowl of ‘I told you so.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if he does anyway. That’s how bad it was…until Kevin Durant got hot.
- You could say Durant played like a dog through three quarters. He would probably say that. In fact, Durant sort of did. “I was so down on myself,” he said. “I was going downhill fast after the first quarter.” But when the horn sounded to start the final period, KD came alive and came through once again in the clutch. He scored 18 of his game-high 38 points in the final period and hit one big shot after another when the Thunder needed it most.
- Durant: “I always feel like I have to be aggressive in the fourth. I guess that is my time no matter how I am playing.”
- Durant’s biggest shot, and this is a hard one because in the final five minutes they were all big, was his one-legged ‘Dirk’ that he hit over Hedo Turkoglu as the shot clock expired. It doesn’t get more cold-blooded than that. Said Durant: “That was a prayer. God was on my side on that one.”
- What made Durant’s fourth even more impressive was that he stepped up another notch when Russell Westbrook couldn’t anymore. Westbrook had carried the Thunder early on, but he sprained his left ankle with 5:46 left to play. He fought through it but had lost his explosiveness. He’s listed as day-to-day, but he left the arena tonight with a pretty serious limp.
- Westbrook was so good before his got injured that he was the Thunder’s offense. The team just gave him the ball and let him make a play, mostly darting to the basket. It’s great to have a player who can take over like that, but the Thunder has got to do better. It was 1-on-5, and that will always be an uphill battle. It’s no fault of Westbrook, though. He was doing his best.
- After he rolled his ankle, Westbrook bounced right up and walked it off before making two free throws. He then dished out two huge assists to Durant. Can’t say enough about how he gutted it out tonight. He finished with 29 points and 10 assists and only two turnovers.
- Another double digit rebound game for Kendrick Perkins. He had 11 tonight, and after three tough quarters trying to contain Dwight Howard he supplied some fantastic defense down the stretch.
- I felt bad for Nick Collison trying to guard the pick-and-roll and have to close out on Ryan Anderson at the 3-point line.
- Durant’s turnovers early were taking him out of this game. He was losing his head and begging for fouls. He finished with five, but it felt like 10.
- Add the Magic to the list of teams that the Thunder could and should watch in an attempt to learn how to move the ball. Orlando swings it extremely well and almost always gets an open shot. The Magic had 24 assists tonight, and seven players had at least one helper. Six players had at least two.
- There’s a ton more to say about this one. Royal Ivey’s contribution, Daequan Cook‘s wild journey to the free throw line, the Thunder’s solid rebounding, OKC’s respectable ball security, the Thunder’s 35-point fourth quarter…You can go on and on about this one. But the most important thing is the Thunder gutted out a road win in the fourth quarter for the second night in a row. OKC again showed its toughness and ability to win close games, even when nothing’s going right. This is how playoff games are won. Remember these come May.
- Up next. At Atlanta on Saturday.
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