The Thunder and Magic had faced off just four days prior to Saturday’s duel, with the Magic handily defeating the Thunder 118-107 on Tuesday. The circumstances in that game were much different to ones we saw on Saturday, Thunder big Al Horford and guard George Hill sat in the first meeting but were in full force in Saturday’s game. And for the Magic, they entered this game without Evan Fournier, who contributed 14 points on Tuesday.
The first quarter of the game packed with scoring runs by both sides. The Thunder jumped out to an early 13-5 lead in the first four minutes of the game, largely in part to their three ball. Six of the Thunder’s first eight shots came from downtown, with three of those going down. The Thunder went ice cold after feeling things early from deep, going 0-7 from three after starting the quarter 3-5. The Magic took total control of this opportunity putting trust behind their stars. Nikola Vucevic (who scored 28 in Tuesday’s game) put in a cool 7 points in the quarter, while Terrance Ross, who played this game with an injured hamstring, put in 12 points in the first. This duo put the team on their backs, the Magic finished the final eight minutes of the quarter on a 28-15 run to put them up 33-28 going into the second.
The second quarter saw both sides struggle to find rhythm, with the Thunder starting out just 3/8 and the Magic going 1/9. An early spark off the Thunder bench erased the five point Magic lead, and vicious efforts inside game way for the Thunder to sit atop a one-point 52-51 lead by half. The key factor in the first half came from the charity stripe, as the Thunder went 13-14 from the line, compared to the Magic’s 5-7.
The third was controlled by team basketball for the Thunder. The team dished in 10 assists in the period alone! A lot of these extra passes found guard George Hill open for shots as he piled on 13 points (on 5-7 shooting) in the third alone. The Magic set their sights on feeding their primary scorers from the first half. Nikola Vucevic laid 10 quick ones in for the Magic (4-5 FG, 2-2 3pt), while Ross drew up 7 in the quarter. When things were said and done, the Thunder were clinging on to a 84-82 by the fourth.
Things started out with a back-and-forth in the final period. The first four minutes of the quarter saw neither side taking any sort of run, with the game being hogtied at 92-91. The whole entire game changed however as the Thunder went on a 7-0 run that ended with four minutes to go. The damage was already done, but the real dagger came with 50 seconds to go when Al Horford drained a contested three from the top of the key, pushing the Thunder lead to eight. The Magic simply could not find its self back into the game after this, giving the Thunder a hard-fought 108-99 win.
For the Thunder, their key to the game on Saturday came from teamwork. The team dropped 22 assists on a season best 10 turnovers. Ball movement in this game gave a variety of players good looks at the basket, having six players score in double-digits. Darius Bazley put up his season bests in the scoring and rebounding columns with a team-high 19 points (7-10 FG) with 12 boards. George Hill’s impact in the third gave him 18 points in the game on 7-12 from the field. One of the sneaky parts of this game was the pivotal role rookie-guard Theo Maledon played in this game