Rolling Thunder Seem Ready For Stumbling Magic
By Randy Renner
Most people would probably call tonight’s contest against Orlando a trap game.
A game against a lesser, but still talented opponent, falling smack in the middle between games against the high profile (and Kevin Durant’s hometown team) Washington Wizards and the highest profile Golden State Warriors.
The Thunder easily dispatched the Wizards and now many fans and media are looking ahead and can’t wait for Saturday’s nationally televised showdown between the NBA’s most dynamic offensive teams, the Warriors and the Thunder.
But before we get to that one the Orlando Magic are stopping by The Peake and if you remember these two teams staged an instant classic in central Florida way back in the first week of the season.
A triple-overtime 139-136 thriller that featured an 18-point Thunder rally in the fourth quarter, topped off with a Russell Westbrook half-court bank shot just to get the game to the first overtime.
That 18-point comeback is the largest ever in the Thunder era of the franchise and the 42 fourth quarter points is the largest scoring outburst in any fourth quarter of the Thunder era.
If the Thunder can keep from thinking ahead to Saturday night those dramatics shouldn’t be needed to get past the Magic now.
The Thunder are rolling winning four straight, 11 of their last 12 and 26 of their last 31. The Magic are stumbling now, in the middle of a five game losing streak on the road while dropping 11 of their last 13 overall.
They did beat Boston in Orlando on Sunday 119-114 before losing in San Antonio a night later 107-92.
"I still believe in our team and I still believe in our guys," said Victor Oladipo, who had 19 points in that Monday loss to the Spurs. "I still feel like a turn and a change is coming for us and we're going to get things rolling again. We just all have to believe it, too."
The Magic must believe they can take down the Thunder considering they probably should have done so in that October 30th triple-overtime game. Westbrook's half-court miracle might have been the highlight but he played a great game overall ending up with 48 points, a season high. Durant's 43 that night were also a season-high until he had 44 last week in New York.
KD is averaging 32.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in the last five games, but Westbrook taking fewer shots and finding teammates more often have been as important to the Thunder's surge. He's averaged 11.6 assists in the last 10 games with four triple-doubles, and Oklahoma City is 22-4 when he gets one (7-0 this season). Russ will be going for his third straight triple tonight.
"It means that my teammates do a great job of getting open, creating lanes where I'm able to be effective, and I'm trying to find ways to get those guys the basketball and trying to play my game," he said.
During the Thunder's seven-game home winning streak, Westbrook has averaged 13.4 field-goal attempts and 14.9 points. They are 19-1 overall when he attempts fewer than 18 shots.
"He's really been efficient," coach Billy Donovan said.
The entire team has been ultra efficient lately. OKC is averaging a whopping 121 points over the last four games with excellent ball movement and shot distribution.
They rank right up at the top along with the Golden State Warriors setting up what could be another one of those instant classic type games on Saturday night.
The Thunder just can’t afford to let their minds wander that way just yet with some business left to handle.
“We still have a game (tonight),” backup center Enes Kanter reminded when he was asked about the Warriors, “our focus on Orlando.”
Just exactly where it needs to be.
Tipoff tonight is set for 7:10 and you can see the game as usual on Fox Sports Oklahoma. We’ll have updates from the arena beginning about 4 o’clock on the Twitter feed page of the website and a full postgame video, featuring comments from Billy Donovan and Thunder players will be up on the site after the game.