Although the Magic (25-14) did not lead even once the entire game, Thursday night's matchup against Oklahoma City (27-13) still came down to the wire, with the Thunder eeking out a 125-124 victory. Even after a dreadful start to the game, with the Magic missing 10 of their first 13 attempts, the Magic kept attacking up to the final buzzer but could not overcome the dual spectacles of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook was on fire tonight, notching his 4th career triple-double with 32 points, 13 assists, and 10 boards. Paired with Durant's 36 points, the Westbrook/Durant combo scored more than half of the Thunder's total points for the night. Wow.
While the sluggish Magic offense was led to last night's defeat in New Orleans, the Magic defense was to blame tonight. The defense simply had few answers to stop the red-hot shooting from Oklahoma City, going a remarkable 56.4% from the field. Add 7-14 from beyond the arc into the mix and the Thunder clearly put on a show on national television.
However, the Magic shooters still made a great effort to pull off the win. Dwight poured in 39 points, matching his season high for points in a game, and made a stunning 17-20 from the free throw line. For a player who is never regarded as an excellent free throw specialst, Howard is shooting an impressive 71% from the charity stripe for the month of January, a stat that Magic fans can surely appreciate.
J-Rich scored 19, shooting 4-8 from three-point land, and Redick and Anderson came off the bench to contribute 33 points together.
Yet, the solid offensive performance just was not enough to topple the streaking Thunder, now winners of 4 straight games.
The Magic had hope to pull off the come-from-behind win by cutting the Oklahoma City lead to two in the final minute. However, with 8.1 seconds left, Durant hit a huge jumper over Turkoglu as the shot clock faded to seal the deal.
After the game, Van Gundy told reporters that even though the Magic defense was glaringly bad tonight, he is more annoyed with the fact that the Magic are "playing out of a hole every night," making victories even more difficult to achieve by always needing to come from behind to win.
This loss puts the Magic record at 9-4 since welcoming Gilbert, Turk, J-Rich, and Earl Clark from December's megatrade.
The Magic will now have one day to regroup before playing in Minneapolis to take on the struggling Timberwolves Saturday night. The Wolves are 10-30 on the season, previously losing to the Magic earlier this year in November by 42 points.