The Thunder (34-19) looked out of sorts in the first half on Tuesday night against Orlando, as the Magic (22-32) shot just under 60 percent from the field and hit 7-of-15 from long range in the first two quarters to take a 69-62 lead into the halftime break. Their offensive onslaught continued to open second half, with the Magic lead reaching 12 just three minutes into the third quarter.
That’s when the Thunder’s offense and defense suddenly found itself on the same page.
With the Magic up 69-57 with 8:56 to go in the third, the Thunder went to work on both ends — suffocating the Orlando offense while lighting up their defense with a heaping dose of Paul George, Dennis Schroder, and Jerami Grant. OKC outscored the Magic 31-13 over the stretch, hitting 13-of-20 from the field in the process, to erase the 12-point deficit and take a 98-92 lead into the fourth and final frame.
Schroder and George continued piling on to open the fourth, forcing Orlando into a timeout at the 8:56-mark after racing out to a 14-5 start on perfect 6-of-6 shooting. However, the offensive explosion proved fleeting — OKC went 4-of-13 from that point forward — leaving it up to the defense to close it out.
Though Orlando clawed as close as six with three minutes to play, the Thunder defense was able to hold them to 29.2 percent shooting in the fourth — doing just enough to survive the offensive collapse. George took matters into his own hands and repeatedly got to the free throw line, going 10-for-11 from the stripe in the fourth to give OKC the cushion it needed to pull away in the final minutes.
George led the way for the Thunder with 39 points (9/26 FG, 6/15 3P, 15/16 FT), eight rebounds, and three steals — his fifth consecutive game with at least 36 points. Russell Westbrook recorded his 20th triple-double of the season with 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 16 assists. They were joined in double figures by a slew of teammates, including a fantastic Grant (19 pts, 11 reb), Schroder (20 pts), Steven Adams (14 pts), Abdel Nader (11 pts), and Terrance Ferguson (10 pts).
Terrance Ross led the Magic in scoring with 26 points off the bench (5/13 3P), followed by Evan Fournier’s 25 points (4/7 3P). After going 7-of-14 from long range in the first half, the Magic hit just 4-of-22 after halftime to allow the Thunder a chance to get back into it.
Russ & PG. Though their individual stat lines look great, George and Westbrook combined to shoot just 14-of-40 (35%) against the Magic. Really no issues with their shot selection — they just weren’t falling. George made up for it with a lot of points at the line, and Russ had no trouble being a facilitator. Other players have to step up when these shots aren’t falling, which is thankfully what happened for OKC tonight.
Role Players. Though the superstar duo shot a combined 35 percent, players not named George or Westbrook went 32-of-52 (61.5%) to balance things out. Grant was phenomenal en route to 19 points and 11 rebounds — his first double-double since January 10. Schroder shot 7-of-9 after halftime and helped turn things around in the third quarter/opening of the fourth. All told, seven players scored in double-figures on a night the All-Stars needed some help. Good effort all around.
Down Low. OKC flipped the script of last week’s game against the Magic, winning 49-40 on the glass and 58-38 in paint scoring. Nikola Vucevic was much less of a problem with Steven Adams in the lineup, as Vuc finished up with 17 points and nine rebounds. (He had 27 & 12 last Tuesday)
Burton Back. Deonte Burton was back on the main roster. He recorded no statistics in three minutes of action.
I Don’t Know, Man. I hope we eventually get a 30-for-30 on the past two months of Alex Abrines’ life:
All the Fouls. There were 54 foul calls in this one…. Which is a lot. OKC went 27-of-37 (73%) from the stripe. Orlando hit 27-of-34 (79.4%).
Next Up. The Thunder return to action on Thursday, facing the Memphis Grizzlies at Chesapeake Energy Arena. (FSOK, 7PM CST)