4 min read

Magic vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

Magic vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer



Magic (21-26, 8-15 road) vs. Thunder (37-13, 23-5 home)

TV: FSOklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.8 (2nd), Magic – 100.9 (25th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 101.1 (11th), Magic – 102.9 (17th)

Surprise, surprise. In the days leading up to the primetime match-up between the Thunder and Golden State Warriors on Saturday, articles are being published suggesting Golden State may be the front-runner in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. And these articles aren’t being written by your run of the mill, wannabe blog writing fanboys (such as myself). Instead, they are being written by prominent NBA writers with contacts and sources within the league. And it’s all by design.

It’s called click-bait. If two months ago, an NFL writer wrote an article about the racial double standard reactions to Cam Newton’s on the field antics versus a prominent white quarterback’s on the field antics, it wouldn’t make as much news as if the article was published in the week leading up to a Super Bowl involving Newton. If that same “Durant to Golden State” article was published a month ago, it wouldn’t get as many viewers as if it was published in the week leading up to the game.

It’s called the recency effect. Whenever important events are coming up, people become more interested in them, which leads to them googling and looking for articles about said event. Writers are keyed into this phenomenon, and release those articles at the right time for maximum viewership. So, before you start looking for the closest ledge to jump from, remember that the particular article you are reading was published at this exact moment because you (and many others) were primed to look at it, read it, and react to it. After Saturday, the fervor over the “KD2GS” movement will die down and the collective NBA mindset will shift to All-Star weekend and the trade deadline.

Series History

This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Magic. There first meeting was a double overtime thriller that featured a 16 point comeback in the 4th quarter, a buzzer-beating halfcourt heave by Russell Westbrook to tie the game in regulation, and several Victor Oladipo clutch 3-point baskets. In the end, the combination of Durant and Westbrook proved too much for the Magic to handle, as both combined for 91 points and 23 rebounds.

The Opponent

The Magic come into the game with a 21-26 record. At the end of the calendar year, the Magic had a 19-13 record and were in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Since then, they’ve lost 13 of their last 15, and find themselves looking up at four other teams for the 8th spot in the East. Their downfall has as much to do with inconsistency as it does with inexperience. They’re in the latter stages of a rebuild, and while the pieces are starting to come together, they are still a ways away from consistently winning. In a way, they remind me a lot of the Denver Nuggets team after Carmelo Anthony was traded. A collection of good, young players, but lacking that superstar alpha to take them over the edge.

Their nucleus is a collection of 20-something’ers that are just now learning how to play (and win) in this league. Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton make up a dynamic backcourt, but their flaws, mainly consistent outside shooting, get in the way of them succeeding. Evan Fournier is probably their most consistent wing and shoots 39% from deep. Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon are both tweeners at the forward position, and that inconsistency in finding a defined position has hurt their development. Up front, Nikola Vucevic is a near double-double machine, posting averages of 16.7 points and 8.9 rebounds. Mario Hezonja has struggled with finding consistent playing time, but when he does, his efficiency numbers aren’t that bad.

3 Big Things

1.Trap Game Potential

Orlando is probably the worst “bad” team to play the game before a primetime match-up. They are very athletic and can capitalize on your mistakes quickly. If the Thunder come into this game thinking about their next game, they could find themselves down early. Hopefully the Thunder remember how the Magic played in their first meeting and come out fully focuses to play this team.

2. Focus on the Perimeter

For being such an young, athletic team, the Magic sure do focus a lot of their offense on the perimeter. They attempt the least amount of free throws in the NBA, at just 18.7 a game. With so little attempts, they also make the least amount of free throws at 14.3. The Orlando Magic get into the bad habit of staying on the perimeter instead of attacking the paint. Its almost like they want to prove they can shoot instead of just taking advantage of their athleticism.

3. Enes Kanter

Aside from Durant and Westbrook, Enes Kanter probably has the best potential to have a great game tonight. Vucevic is a bruiser, which plays more into Kanter’s defensive wheelhouse. In addition, the bigs off the bench are all just really power forwards. I could see a double-double game from Kanter with at least 5 offensive boards.

Thunder Killer – Opposing player most likely to have a breakout game against the Thunder:

Victor Oladipo – For some reason, guards who are inconsistent outside shooters come to Oklahoma City and find their range (think Marcus Smart or even Chris Paul). Oladipo had a triple double the last time he played OKC, while also making some clutch 3-point shots.