Several hours before the game, Alex Roig predicted the Thunder killer: Victor Oladipo. Not the most difficult prediction, perhaps, but Oladipo pretty much had his way with any deployment of Thunder defense — rather the way he did the last Thunder-Magic clash, in which he knocked down a triple-double. Into the final minute of the game, Oladipo had 37 points, one short of his career high, and the Magic were up two. “Killer,” for the moment, looked literal. Then at :30, Russell Westbrook came up with a layup to tie, and with half a second left, Kevin Durant splashed a 28-footer. Oladipo’s desperation shot at the horn did not go, and it was Oklahoma City 117, Orlando 114, wild and woolly, though only one actual W word counts for anything in the grand scheme of things.
Still, it took some serious heroics to get past those shots of V.O. That last trey gave KD 37 points, and Westbrook, who’d worked up a triple-double in a mere 22 minutes, had 19 rebounds, a career high, in the middle of it. (Otherwise: 22 points, 14 assists.) And the Magic were shooting 50 percent or better almost all night, finishing at 49.5. Serge Ibaka wasn’t scoring much, but he did block six shots, one more than the entire Orlando squad. Still, the guy who scared me as much as Oladipo did was Mario Hezonja, the #5 draft pick in 2015, who scored 16, one short of his career high, and who beat two buzzers. (There are only four buzzers to beat in regulation.)
All eyes, inevitably, now turn to Saturday night’s clash with the mighty Golden State Warriors, who have yet to lose one at home this season. (Then again, neither have the Spurs, who have played more home games.) I’d like to be hopeful, really I would. But then the Thunder just beat a team that had lost nine of its last ten by three points. The Warriors haven’t lost nine since the French and Indian War.