Preview 20 of 82: Thunder @ Magic
Time: 6:00 PM CT
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Golden State Warriors a week ago tonight — a presumptive turn of the corner for the under-performing squad. The Thunder then dropped the following two games, the last coming against a Dallas Mavericks team that entered with a 4-15 record. Making matters worse, the same issues that plagued OKC earlier in the season were again the culprit. Stagnant offense, inconsistent defense, basic inability to close a game — all there at the forefront.
Tonight the 8-11 Thunder visit Orlando for a date with the 8-13 Magic. Losers of nine consecutive games — six of which came by double-digits — the Magic present another opportunity for the Thunder to sharpen its claws on a less than stellar opponent. That being said, escaping Florida with a win is far from guaranteed.
Now some notes.
- Jonathan Isaac: Out — Ankle
Magic Starters: Elfrid Payton, Terrance Ross, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
|Team||EFG%||FTA Rate||TOV%||OREB%||OPP EFG%||OPP FTA||OPP TOV%||OPP OREB%|
Play Basketball. This space is typically reserved for the “Hey maybe the Thunder should close a game” speech, but that doesn’t take into account how awful the team looked for 48 minutes in Dallas last Saturday. In order to blow a lead, you must first own one — and OKC was blown out against the underwhelming Mavericks. To keep the Magic’s losing streak intact, the Thunder needs to play something resembling basketball for four quarters. No reason this should be a close game, but that means very little at this point.
Paul George’s Common Cold: Paul George missed Monday’s practice due to illness, but returned Tuesday and is considered good to go tonight in Orlando. He’s coming off his worst shooting performance of the season in Saturday’s loss to Dallas — going 1/12 from the field and finishing with two points. He’ll look to get it going against the Magic but might not reach his season average of 36.7 minutes per game if there’s any lingering effects from being sick.
Defending the Three. If the Magic are going to exploit the Thunder defense, look for that to come from behind the three-point line. Orlando has the fourth-best three-point percentage in the NBA at 38.3 percent. OKC has one of the better defenses in the league, but gave up 37+ percent clips from downtown in losses to Detroit and Dallas last week.
The Magic Attack. Orlando is led in scoring by Evan Fournier (17.8 PPG), Aaron Gordon (17.4 PPG), Nikola Vucevic (16.5 PPG) and Jonathan Simmons (14.3 PPG). Look for Andre Roberson to re-emerge after playing only 16 minutes in the loss to Dallas. His versatility should keep his value high — particularly against this foursome that features each individual shooting 37 percent or higher from long distance.
Streak Buster. The Magic has lost nine consecutive contests headed into tonight. The Thunder has lost six consecutive road games. Someone gets a temporary fresh start after this one.
Russ Owns Orlando. Russell Westbrook is off to an underwhelming start this season, but there is reason for optimism with the team in Orlando. His last two games at the Amway Center:
- 2015-16: 48 Points, 11 Rebounds, 8 Assists
- 2016-17: 57 Points, 13 Rebounds, 11 Assists
That’s a cool 52.5 points, 12 rebounds, and 9.5 assists over the last two seasons when visiting the Magic. Both games went into overtime with Westbrook hitting monster shots to send it into the extra frame — and both resulted in Thunder wins.
Paul George on when he’ll know OKC has found its offense. Via Erik Horne.