Preview 50 of 82: Thunder @ Magic
Time: 6:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
The Oklahoma City Thunder (31-18) are looking for their sixth straight win on the road tonight in Orlando, taking on the Magic (20-30) at the Amway Center. The Magic have lost six of seven and find themselves 11th in the Eastern Conference. The Thunder are fresh off perhaps their most impressive win of the season after beating the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night. OKC is holding steady at third in the West, leading the fourth-place Portland Trail Blazers by one game.
Tip-off is at 6:00 PM CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 5.5-point road favorites according to Odds Shark.
Update: OKC is down two starters tonight in Orlando:
- Steven Adams: Out—Ankle
- Terrance Ferguson: Out — Back
- Alex Abrines: Active?
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Timofey Mozgov: Out — Knee
- Isaiah Briscoe: Questionable — Ankle
Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Hamidou Diallo, Paul George, Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel
Magic: DJ Augustin, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
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What to Watch For
Winning When You Should. The Magic have the fifth-worst offensive rating in the NBA at 105.3, and find themselves middle-of-the-pack on the other end with a defensive rating of 108.9. They’re 24th in rebounding, 24th in field goal percentage, 30th in paint scoring, 29th in fast break scoring, and have lost six of their last seven games. The Thunder aren’t infallible but this is a game they should win based on defense alone. Orlando isn’t scaring anyone these days.
Magic Bigs. If the Magic are going to beat you, it begins with their starting frontcourt of Nikola Vucevic (20.6 PPG, 12 RPG, 37.5% 3P) and Aaron Gordon (15.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 35.5% 3P). Orlando scores just 42.1 PPG in the paint (30th), so they aren’t terrorizing teams from the block. However, both Vucevic and Gordon are capable of stretching the floor a bit and making things tricky. Certainly worked for Brook Lopez on Sunday.
Down Low. Despite not scoring much in the interior, the Magic do a great job of defending it. They give up the seventh-fewest points in the paint at 46.5 PPG, while also allowing the third-fewest second-chance points at 11.3 PPG. With Steven Adams questionable due to the sprained ankle he suffered on Sunday, OKC could have some issues down low if Big Kiwi is absent or limited in any way.
Magic Shooters. The Magic aren’t a great team from long range (34.7%, 19th), but they have a few players capable of knocking them down. Former Thunder legend DJ Augustin (11.6 PPG) is hitting 43.3 percent on nearly four attempts per game. Vucevic makes 37.5 percent of 3.1 attempts per game. Terrance Ross (13.9 PPG) takes a little more than six per game and has a success rate of 37.5 percent this season — he’s one to watch off the Orlando bench. Evan Fournier (14.8 PPG) is also dangerous, but to a lesser degree this season. He’s making just 32.8 percent of his six attempts per contest. That’s the worst three-point percentage of six-year career.
Pace. Orlando plays with the fourth-slowest pace in the league, averaging just 98.2 possessions per game. The Thunder play the third-fastest brand of ball with 103.96 possessions per game. OKC can take control by forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. If the Magic can slow it down and force the Thunder to play in the halfcourt, anything can happen.
Russ & PG. The Thunder’s superstar duo should be the difference in this one, as Orlando shouldn’t have the means to slow them down. PG13 is averaging 29 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 steals on 44.4 percent shooting from long range in January — he just needs to continue doing what he’s been doing. Westbrook should look to keep it clean from beyond the arc and attack the paint like he did in last week’s win over Portland. He can open things up offensively if he puts pressure on Orlando’s interior defense instead of pulling up and settling for shots in the mid-range.