Entering the second game of a back-to-back the Thunder (1-2) fell to the Orlando Magic (4-0) 107-118. The Thunder were left without starters Al Horford (rest) and George Hill (neck) in the game. The replacement starting lineup included forwards Justin Jackson and Isaiah Roby filling out the four and five.
The Thunder kept things tight with the Magic in the early stages of the game. In the first quarter, both sides did most of their damage inside. Of the Magic’s 34 points, 22 of them came from the paint, while the Thunder found 16 of their 27 inside. The tandem of Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon set the tone early for the Magic, using their size to their advantage. The pairing racked up 16 points in the quarter. Isaiah Roby was the surprising name for the Thunder early, giving the team 9 points on 4-5 shooting in the first.
In the opening parts of the second quarter, the Oklahoma City bench revitalized the team, as the lineup of Maledon, Diallo, Williams, Pokusevski, and Muscala went on a terror, posting a 12-2 run in the first four minutes to put the team up 39-38. The lineup prevented what had been Orlando’s money-maker at that point, the paint. Once Nikola Vucevic checked back into the game for the Magic, the Thunder never led again. The Thunder’s lead was erased with a 6-0 Magic run. This hot streak by the Magic pushed them up 10 with three to go in the quarter, but the Thunder closed out strong to make the game only a 60-56 Magic lead.
The third quarter was as close as you could’ve asked, with the quarter being a one-or-two possession game most of the way through, even being knotted up at 80-80 with 2:19 to go. The Thunder’s methods of scoring in the quarter came from everywhere, SGA pullups, Dort corner threes, Muscala jumpers, the ball was all over the place. For the Magic, they found their foundation in the third from an unlikely hero, Dwayne Bacon. Bacon scooped in five layups accounting for ten points of the Magic’s 27 points in the quarter. The game was still up in the air at 87-85 for Orlando going into the 4th.
The fourth quarter saw the Magic attack the basket early and often, pouring in 18 points in the paint. This offensive attack inside was far too much for the Thunder to keep up with as their 8-17 shooting in the 4th played them out of the game. The final score of 118-107 was the largest lead of the game for the Magic.
The Magic’s dominant performance came from the paint, scoring 72 points inside. They had six players in double-figured but none stacked up to Nikola Vucevic, who led the team in scoring with 28 points on 12-18 shooting (3-4 3pt.) Dwayne Bacon was locked in going 9-10 from the field for 18 points.
For the Thunder, they too found most of their points in the paint (58.) Their three ball was not there, shooting just 11-34 from deep.
Isaiah Roby was the team’s biggest bright spot as the 22-year-old 6-8 forward made a lasting impression in his first career start, tacking on 19 points and 7 rebounds, going 9-12 from the field. His greatest basket of the game came off a ball fake, breaking Nikola Vucevic’s ankles, and navigating his way inside for the ferocious dunk. The majority of his points came off the screens with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Alexander posted 23 points with 7 rebounds on an efficient 8-10 shooting (3-3 3pt,) but the Magic employed a double-team on him coming off the screen, giving guys like Roby golden opportunities for points as SGA had 7 assists on the game. Darius Bazely had a rocky night, going just 3-14 on the game.
Despite the loss, there were many great things to take away from this game. The effort from all members of the squad were apparent, battling until the buzzer sounded. The embodiment of there effort all game was shown when Hamidou Diallo opted to intentionally foul Magic guard Markelle Fultz with 29 seconds left in the game, despite being down eight.
The Thunder will have a shot at redemption against the Magic, facing off against them on Saturday, for now their focus is shifted on Thursday’s game vs. the Pelicans (2-2) in Steven Adam’s return game. For the Magic, they still remain as one of only four unbeaten, hoping to extend their streak of perfection to five vs. the 76ers (3-1) on Thursday.