Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 17, 2013

Durant, Westbrook lead Thunder past Magic

OKLAHOMA CITY — Despite the disparity in their records, the Oklahoma City Thunder weren’t taking the struggling Orlando Magic lightly.

Kevin Durant scored 26 points and Russell Westbrook added 23 to help the Thunder keep up their dominant play at home with a 117-104 victory over the Magic on Friday night.

Oklahoma City led by 27 in the second quarter and 22 in the third, but had to put its starters back on the floor midway through the fourth after Orlando pulled within four.

The Thunder held the Magic scoreless over the final 2 1/2 minutes and closed with an 8-0 run to improve to 30-4 at home this season.

“We knew going into this game Orlando would play hard and they’ve been doing that all year,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They are a team that is going to be good in the future very quickly. Our focus was inconsistent throughout the game. We pride ourselves in being more focused in every game and every possession and it wasn’t the case tonight.”

The focus was there in the first half.

The Thunder scored a season-high 73 points in the first two quarters, shooting 64 percent from the floor and converting 18 of 22 free throws to lead by 17 at the break.

Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 26 points, hitting 5 of 12 three-pointers including a crucial one with 3:37 left to pull the Magic to 106-102.

Durant had a three-point play 18 seconds later to push the lead back to seven. Tobias Harris’ layup got the Magic within five with 2:34 remaining, but they didn’t score again.

Westbrook made his third 3-pointer of the night with 2:07 to go, Thabo Sefolosha hit a free throw, Durant made two from the line and added a layup in the final minute to close the scoring

“We made plays on both ends,” Durant said of the fourth quarter. “We passed the ball and made some shots in the fourth. It was a disappointing effort in the third but I liked the way we finished.”

The Thunder looked like they were going to put the game away early, shooting 71 percent in the first quarter to lead by 13. They extended the lead to 27 before the Magic pulled to 73-56 at the half.

Oklahoma City dominated the Magic in nearly every statistical category, outrebounding Orlando 52-33 — including 44-26 on the defensive end.

“Just great concentration level in the second half for us to be down 27 and cut the lead to four,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Their two best players made two 3s, daggers that pushed the lead a little bit but overall just really good things especially in the second half.”

With his team struggling to find the 20-win mark, the Magic’s first-year coach acknowledged Orlando (18-48) was playing more for pride than a chance at the playoffs.

The second-half rally where Orlando outscored Oklahoma City 48-44 was a start. The Magic began cutting into the lead, outscoring the Thunder 28-22 in the third.

“We just didn’t play with the focus we needed,” Brooks said. “We missed too many free throws, layups and missed opportunities. Those are things we have to get better at.”

Durant said the Thunder, who improved to 49-17, forgot what made them so successful in the first half.

“Guys weren’t worried about shooting the ball (in the first half),” Durant said. “We were worrying about passing and finding the open shot. The second half the ball got sticky. We’ve got to stay disciplined throughout the whole game.”

Instead of watching the game from the bench, starters Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins were forced to re-enter with 6:49 remaining followed by Durant, Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka soon after.

Harris continued to be a bright spot for the Magic since being acquired from Milwaukee. He scored 19 points in 40 minutes while largely guarding either Westbrook or Durant.

All five Orlando starters finished the game in double figures. Nikola Vucevic scored 21 points, Arron Afflalo had 10 and Maurice Harkless 12.

Ibaka scored 20 and Kevin Martin added 15 off the bench for the Thunder, who have won two in a row and 10 of their last 13.

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