If there was one thing more remarkable than the Thunder’s 37-point first quarter, including a 13-0 opening run, on the road at Orlando, it was the 42-point second quarter; were it not for the team’s genuinely lousy foul shooting 10-17 for 59 percent in that half, versus 73 percent from the floor one might have thought that this thing was in the bag. And then the Magic opened the second half with three consecutive treys, exposing some of the defensive rot yet to be pruned away.
Still, in the third quarter Orlando managed to slice the Thunder’s 34-point halftime lead only by seven, so the Foregone Conclusion button was pushed, neither Kevin Durant (21 points, 11 rebounds, one technical) nor Russell Westbrook (17 points, one industrial-strength dunk, one technical) came out for the fourth, and OKC emptied the bench with 6:11 left. The final: Oklahoma City 127, Orlando 99, and the Thunder is back at .500. Unfortunately, so is New Orleans: the Pelicans edged the Raptors, 95-93.
With all 12 players getting minutes, seven Thundermen scored in double figures, including the bookends of the bench, Dion Waiters (17) and Reggie Jackson (13). Andre Roberson rolled up 10 points for the second time ever. Serge Ibaka knocked down 16. Even Kendrick Perkins bagged 11 points (!), on 5-7 (!!) shooting. That 73-percent shooting percentage early on did drop, but only to 58; OKC enjoyed a startling 54-33 advantage on the boards.
Despite all that, the game-high man was Orlando’s Victor Oladipo, with 23 points. Elfrid Payton, beside him in the Magic backcourt, added 19. The woeful Magic shooting percentage in the first half became less so in the second, rising to just under 40. Both sides hit around 35 percent from beyond the circle. And interestingly, both sides had two players with five fouls: Payton and Nikola Vučević for the Magic, Steven Adams and Nick Collison for the Thunder.
The next week will be unnerving, against four Eastern foes, all of them for the moment playoff-bound: Miami (Tuesday), Washington (Wednesday), Atlanta (Friday) and Cleveland (Sunday). It’s going to take some seriously high-energy balling to get through this bunch.