Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY
Desperation can make a team play sharper and make a team lack execution.
In one moment, the Magic's desperation and confidence turned a 16-point deficit into a one-possession game, capped off with Victor Oladipo, Jameer Nelson and Maurice Harkless trapping Russell Westbrok for his fifth turnover leading to a Harkless dunk and a two-point game.
In the next, the Thunder, after seeing Kevin Durant leave the door open by missing the front end of two free throws, defending a double pindown screen for Arron Afflalo perfectly, doubling off of Davis as Afflalo came around the picks. That left Jameer Nelson to feed Glen Davis who hoisted a three and missed off the front rim. Nikola Vucevic's putback attempt was blocked and the game ended after a jump ball.
The Magic fought and fought, never letting the Thunder get too far away. The turnovers, missed free throws and fast break points from earlier in the game came back to haunt. The Magic fell to the Thunder 101-98 at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday.
Orlando found itself down for most of this game. Things started off poorly with Russell Westbrook stealing a pass from Victor Oladipo and streaking to the other end for a lay in and a 2-0 lead. Westbrook would power the Thunder to 15 fast-break points in the first quarter and that is how he scored most of his 20 points.
This would be the moment when you would expect Kevin Durant to take over. He did for stretches as the Thunder expanded and kept their lead in double digits for most of the game. Durant scored 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting. The Magic could not stop him.
Instead what Orlando had to grind its way through the game sort of and stay within striking distance.
It was hard to figure out where scoring was going to come from. Orlando scored only 30 points in the paint for the game and had 12 fast break points. They were not generating a ton of easy scoring opportunities. Only consistent trips to the line kept the team moving.
Arron Afflalo struggled to shoot until the fourth quarter, ending up with 25 points on 9-for-20 shooting and 2-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Victor Oladipo shook off his shaky start to provide a big energy boost in the fourth quarter, finishing with 15 points. Nikola Vucevic had 13 points and 16 rebounds, helping get Serge Ibaka into early foul trouble.
Orlando got hot at the right moment to make Oklahoma City pay for not putting the team away.
Then again, the Magic did a lot of it to themselves. There were the 15 fastbreak points in the first quarter and 27 fastbreak points in the game. Then there were the 14 turnovers leading to 17 Oklahoma City points. Most of all was the nine missed free throws. That is the ball game right there.
The Magic got to the line for 26 free throws, but making 17 including three misses from the usually reliable Victor Oladipo, proved to be costly when at the time they really did not seem to be. Making free throws is obviously an easy way to keep up momentum or kill it completely. Maybe the Magic make their run earlier if those shots go in.
Oklahoma City kind of coasted through this game. It did not really seem like the team needed to do much. The Thunder could not find that one run to put the Magic away however. Even with the bench absolutely dominating the Magic's second unit.
Orlando kept fighting and fighting. That is becoming a hallmark of this team.
Unfortunately, it still meant the Magic fell short.