Twenty-five to nine. That’s the run with which the Thunder opened the fourth quarter tonight, and Dennis Schröder got 18 of those points. It couldn’t last, and it didn’t; the Magic promptly ran off eight in a row. Big-time runs dominated this outing in Orlando; there were lead changes seemingly every couple of minutes. But the run that tells the tale is the last one, and despite some statistical marvels — 102 shots taken, a 53-43 rebounding edge, and the ever-frightening Nikola Vučević with his 34th double-double this season — the Magic were unable to thwart Thunder thrust. Oklahoma City 126, Orlando 117, the start to a season series that ends next week back at the ‘Peake.
And the Thunder were hobbled from the beginning: Steven Adams sprained his ankle last time out, and Terrance Ferguson was suffering from back spasms. Filling in: Nerlens Noel and Hamidou Diallo. Both landed comfortably above the zero line in the plus-minus scheme, something Russell Westbrook didn’t do despite Yet Another Triple-Double (23-14-14). Paul George turned in a Paul George-like line, 14 of 24 for 37 points. In the Battle of the Grant Brothers, Jerami (younger, OKC) won over Jerian (older, Orlando), 18-5. And for the first time, we saw Alex Abrines get some minutes and a trey, as one expects from Señor Splash.
The West, behind Golden State and Denver anyway, is jammed up again. From third (OKC) to eighth (the Clippers), there’s a spread of a mere 4.5 games, and the Lakers are still within clawing distance. However, the Thunder is working the East this week; after this Orlando thing, it’s down to Miami on Friday night, and then up to Boston on Sunday afternoon. The Heat are playing .500 ball, the Celtics more like .600. OKC is a respectable 15-11 on the road, but it’s too early to start counting sweeps.