The Orlando Magic aren’t going anywhere this season like the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it doesn’t mean they can’t have their big moments, coming with a big win over the Western leaders as Tobias Harris pulled off a buzzer-beating dunk for the 103-102 victory, galvanized by some excellent second half defense, lead by Victor Oladipo.
Coming off the bench, it was Oladipo and the bench that got the Magic back into the game after trailing for the first three quarters with a much improved effort defensively, making the right kind of traps on defense and making the most of the minutes when Kevin Durant wasn’t on the floor. Durant did turn the ball over six times, but his return in the fourth quarter managed to slow down the Magic’s run, or at least delay the impending doom.
We came in at halftime and watched the film and talked about how we could help ourselves. There were numerous possessions in the first half where we could have been in better places … and we did that in the second half and that was the difference.
It was Oladipo’s defense that helped the Magic recover the loose ball after Kevin Durant missed a shot that would have given the Thunder a three point lead with five seconds remaining. Oladipo charged down the floor but instead of going for the winning layup himself, he passed it to Mo Harkless, who didn’t think twice and passed it along to the trailing Harris, rising and dunking with just enough time to beat the clock and deliver the win.
This wasn’t an explosive game for Durant, but yet another example of being more than a scorer. The Magic struggled in the first half containing the Thunder’s shooters, and Durant was glad to find open players, finishing with 12 assists to go along with his 25 points, making it his 4th game with 25+ points and 10+ assists this season. However, he was part of the second half decline for the Thunder, which led to only 14 points in the fourth quarter, playing slowly and predictably, something that’s always been part of their M.O. on bad days but has rarely showed up over the last month or so.
We couldn’t do anything in the second half. We were just a step slow. We kept running the same plays. We didn’t help on the back side. We let guys cut to basket. There were just mental breakdowns.
It wasn’t the greatest of shooting games for the Magic, but they turned the ball over only nine times an their defense forced 16 out of the Thunder, giving them the chance to move away from their struggling half court offense (3-of-11 from the field for Afflalo). Serge Ibaka did finish with 5 blocks, but the Magic kept finding their way into the paint, finishing with 50 points inside. Glen Davis scored 14 points on 6-of-7 from the field and Tobias Harris had awful efficiency (6-of-17 from the field) but scored 18 points.
Oladipo continues to be the team’s best player, scoring 14 points off the bench, doing a little bit of everything in only 21 minutes on the floor. There’s no stand out rookie of the year player this season, but Oladipo is probably right up there and maybe ahead of the rest, as the Magic seem like the team to have made the wisest decision regarding the future in the most recent draft.