Denton: Magic-Thunder Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
January 13, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Unable to get many defensive stops of any kind Thursday night, the Orlando Magic finally looked like they had the Oklahoma City Thunder out of options as the final seconds of the shot clock ticked down late in the fourth period Thursday night.

But just before the horn sounded, the Thunder whipped the ball around the perimeter and found forward Jeff Green for a dagger of a 26-foot, fade-away 3-pointer.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy slumped his shoulders and shook his head in disgust at his team’s inability to offer up any defensive resistance at all against the young and dynamic Thunder. It was just one moment of frustration, but it perfectly summed up a night when the Magic had little luck go their way in Oklahoma City.

Because of Thursday’s defensive woes that led to a frustrating 125-124 loss in Oklahoma City, an Orlando team that was riding a franchise record-tying nine-game winning streak just two days ago now has a two-game losing skid to try and stomach. Magic guard Jason Richardson hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer to draw the Magic within one point, but that only added to the dejection of the night.

``It’s just so tough when we finally play good defense and then Jeff Green makes a 3-pointer, throws it in really, with a guy in his face,’’ Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said glumly. ``

The Magic (25-14) certainly played well enough offensively to win the game, getting 39 points and 18 rebounds from franchise center Dwight Howard, 19 points from Richardson and a combined 33 points and seven 3-pointers from reserves J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson. But defensively, the Magic were repeatedly gashed by an Oklahoma City team that scored a season-high in points and shot a scorching 56.4 percent from the floor.

``There wasn’t one possession all night where I liked our defense,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy fumed. ``They made a lot of tough shots, but I can’t think of one stop we got that was a good one.’’

Superstar forward Kevin Durant was unstoppable all game with 36 points, none bigger than the pull-up jumper over Howard’s outstretched arm with eight seconds left to seal the game. But it was dazzling point guard Russell Westbrook who gave the Magic the most fits with the fourth triple-double of his career. He scored 32 points, carved up Orlando with 13 assists and added 10 rebounds.

``We just couldn’t ever get a stop when we needed it. They had so many different guys scoring and we just couldn’t ever get a handle on them,’’ Magic reserve guard Gilbert Arenas said. ``But we bounced back all night and kept fighting. I think the positive is that (Oklahoma City) needed a triple-double from one guy (Westbrook), another guy (Durant) shooting 80 percent and a guy like Jeff Green hitting shots and they still only beat us by one point.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Thursday’s wonderfully entertaining game that had to make the TV execs at TNT thrilled:


John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at