Thunder Win Sixth Straight, Thwart Magic 126-117
The Oklahoma City Thunder (32-18) picked up their sixth straight win on Tuesday night, beating the Orlando Magic (20-31) by a final score of 126-117. Despite being without Steven Adams (ankle) and Terrance Ferguson (back), Paul George led the way with a game-high 37 points (14/24 FG, 2/5 3P, 7/9 FT) to propel the Thunder to victory. Russell Westbrook recorded his 17th triple-double of the season with 23 points (7/12 FG, 1/2 3P, 8/12 FT), 14 rebounds, and 14 assists. Dennis Schroder added 21 points off the bench, with Jerami Grant’s 18 and Nerlens Noel’s 12 rounding out the Thunder’s double-digit scorers.
Despite the Thunder falling behind by 10 early in the first quarter, George quickly erased the deficit with a potent offensive explosion that Orlando had no answer for. The MVP candidate enjoyed the highest-scoring half of his career, shooting 11-of-16 (2/3 3P) for 31 points in the first two quarters to put OKC up 69-63 at the break.
The Thunder opened the third quarter with a bang, racing out to a 12-3 start for an 81-66 advantage with 8:23 remaining. With their biggest lead of the night in hand, OKC appeared ready to pull away. However, the Thunder offense shot just 4-of-14 from that point forward, as the Magic closed the third on a 28-10 run to take a 94-91 lead into the final quarter. After scorching the Magic for 31 first half points, George was held scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting in the third.
Facing a three-point deficit after having just blown a 15-point lead, the trip to Orlando was beginning to feel like a trap for the Thunder. Right on cue, Dennis Schroder (who had three points on 1-of-3 shooting heading into the 4th) caught fire — sparking a massive Thunder rally with 12 points in the first six minutes of the quarter. The backup point guard ended up pouring in 18 of his 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the fourth, helping the Thunder to a 15-of-20 (75 percent) shooting effort in the final 12 minutes. All told, OKC outscored Orlando 35-23 in the fourth quarter to come away with the 126-117 victory.
Nuclear PG. George looked like a man possessed in the first half, as he single-handedly kept the Thunder afloat with 31 points in 20 minutes of floor time. Though he shot just 3-of-8 after halftime and was held scoreless in the third quarter, he finished his night with 37 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals, and a team-high +16. That’s a resume builder.
Controlled Chaos. After going 5-of-20 and finishing as a -11 on Sunday vs Milwaukee, Westbrook was a more controlled version of himself tonight in Orlando. He picked up his 17th triple-double with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists — but his 7-of-12 shooting effort was the best part. He went 1-of-2 from long distance, routinely attacked the Magic at the rim, and shot 8-of-12 from the free throw line as a result of his aggression. He neglected the mid-range in favor of getting into the paint, which left his shot chart looking like something straight out of a fever dream:
Miss you, Steve. Orlando took advantage of Big Kiwi’s absence, abusing the Thunder 53-43 on the glass. They grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, scored 18 second-chance points, and Nikola Vucevic posted a cool 27 points and 11 rebounds. Nerlens Noel had a stat line of 12 points, seven rebounds, and five blocks in his +12 evening. Regardless, it’s difficult to replicate the physicality Adams brings to the court. OKC missed that tonight.
You too, Ferg. Hamidou Diallo (7 pts, 17 MP, +7) replaced Terrance Ferguson in the starting lineup, which is unfortunate because the Magic decided to shoot all the threes. They didn’t knock down a great percentage, going 14-of-41 for 34.1 percent. However, they hit 10 of those in the third quarter and Ferg’s perimeter defense would have been useful during that onslaught.
Abrines! Viva! Alex Abrines made his first appearance since December 23, reemerging from his mysterious absence to score three points on 1-of-2 shooting from long range in six minutes of action. I guess that’s over now, which is cool. Was nice to see him again.
Other Guys. Vucevic led the Magic with 27 points and was joined in double-figures by Evan Fournier (17), Aaron Gordon (16), Terrance Ross (16), DJ Augustin (11), and Jonathan Issac (16).
Back in action on Friday night against the Heat in Miami. That game tips-off at 7:00 PM CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. Thunder will be looking for their seventh straight victory.