Regular Season Recap: Magic vs Thunder


0 Field goal attempts James Harden had in first quarter, yet led Thunder in scoring with seven points (7-for-7 at the line).

1 Field goals the Magic made in the first quarter after opening the period hitting eight of nine shots.

9 Consecutive free throws made by James Harden before his first miss.

16-4 Point differential the Thunder used to close the first quarter, turning what was a 18-11 deficit into a 27-22 lead.

21 Assists totaled by the Thunder

22 Thunder’s biggest lead of the game

30 Points by Kevin Durant, a game-high

37 Field goal percentage of the Magic (30 of 81)

39 Game minutes Dwight Howard was held without a field goal. He scored on a dunk at the 8:23 mark of the first quarter and was held to three free throws wil the 5:23 mark of the fourth quarter.

52.6 Thunder’s 3-point field goal percentage; the Magic shot 28.6.

The Thunder boarded a flight to Minneapolis immediately after the game for a game Monday night against the Timberwolves. Tip-off is 7 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

“They have some exciting players,” Brooks said of the Timberwolves, “and we have to match their first-game intensity. We’re looking forward to it.”

Added Durant: “We’re looking forward to it. We always get excited to play again.”

Throughout Training Camp and the preseason, Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks consistently stressed two things: the Thunder needed to be consistently tough on the defensive end and share the ball offensively.

Message received.

The Thunder limited the Orlando Magic to 37 percent shooting from the field and totaled 21 assists in its season opener, a 97-89 victory on Christmas night before a sold-out Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd of 18,203.

“I thought our defense was really good,” Brooks said afterwards. “We started off the game, they were making some tough shots. Orlando is one of the best teams in the league, one of the best offensive teams in basketball. We got (Dwight) Howard rolling to the basket and their shooters are all over the floor. … But I thought defensively all throughout the game we were good.”

Orlando opened the game hitting 8 of its first 9 shots and opened an 18-11 lead. But then the Thunder defense took charge, creating fast-break buckets off of turnovers and defensive stops that energized an already excited crowd.

The Magic would hit just 22 of 72 shots the rest of the way.

“I’m am very pleased with our intensity,” Brooks said. “I knew we were going to be in for a difficult game because of how they play.”

With 7:07 remaining in the first quarter and the Magic up 18-11, the Thunder goes on a 7-0 run. The burst starts on the defensive end with two turnovers that create fast-break buckets, and none is better or more exciting than the play that started with 6:18 left in the quarter when Russell Westbrook stepped in front of a pass and fired the outlet pass to Kevin Durant for a two-handed dunk. … In the second quarter, with the Thunder leading 35-29, a 13-2 run blows the game open. Durant scores seven points in the burst, Nick Collison four and James Harden adds two free throws before the Magic call time out.

Durant, double-teamed on the baseline near the basket, finds a wide open Thabo Sefolosha with a bounce pass. Sefolosha drains the jumper. …. Serge Ibaka, leaving his man on tdefense to help alter the shot of Jason Richardson. Ibaka grabs the rebound, too, and the Thunder is off and running. … With Chesapeake Arena in a full roar, Kendrick Perkins holds his ground on the baseline and forces another Orlando turnover when Howard steps out of bounds. … Collison slapping the ball out of Howard’s hands. The sequence ends with a Nazr Mohammed jumper that gives the Thunder a 22-21 lead. … Mohammed dropping down for help defense and blocking the shot of Glen Davis. … Next defensive series, it’s Mohammed again, this time drawing a charge on Davis with the Thunder up 39-29. … Perkins, showing the hands of a receiver, pulls in a KD pass and finishes at the rim. … Harden catching a pass in mid-air, hanging and releasing shot for basket and 55-41 lead.

Harden spinning around his man to deliver a hard foul on Howard under the basket, forcing the big man to earn his points at the line instead of the rim. Howard made 1 of 2. … Durant swinging a touch pass at top of key to Eric Maynor in the corner for a 3 and 72-58 lead. … Collison and Perkins working together under the rim, denying the shot of Howard and altering the follow-up dunk attempt by Earl Clark. … Collison setting a screen on Jason Richardson to free up Harden, who knocks down the open 15-footer for a 79-61 lead. … Give-and-go between Daequan Cook and Harden on inbounds play that results in Harden reverse just before shot clock expires. … Westbrook, following a Harden drive on a fast break with the Thunder up 85-68, soars above two Magic rebounders for the tip-in after the ball rolled off the rim.

That was the clock time elapsed between field goals for Magic center Dwight Howard. He scored on a vicious two-hand dunk with 8:23 to play in the first quarter. He did not have another field goal until the 5:18 mark of the fourth quarter, just three free throws during that span.

“Howard is the premiere player in the league. I thought Perk was really good and made him work for everything he had and that is what we expect out of Perk every night. Perk gives us everything he has every night and I thought he was really good staying between Dwight and the basket.”

Home for the Holidays took on a new meaning during a special halftime presentation.

The Thunder paid tribute to the some 3,000 Oklahoma National Guard members from the 45th Infantry Brigade currently on duty in Kuwait and Afghanistan, many of whom were unable to be with their families on Christmas.

The Thunder saluted not only the soldiers for their service, but also their families in a touching ceremony that featured the families of Sgt. Jose Dozal and Staff Sgt. Robert Nixon. Each of the families watched a special video message from the soldiers and then gathered for a group photo with Santa Rumble on center court.

Only something wasn’t right. Rumble insisted more people join the photo and then … Dozal and Nixon appeared to the shock of their families and those who stayed in their seats for halftime. There were few dry eyes on the court or in the arena.