OKC Thunder (28-7, 13-6 road) at Orlando Magic (23-13, 12-6 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 108.8 (2nd), Magic– 103.7 (13th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.0 (13th), Magic – 101.0 (12th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.6 (4th), Magic – 89.2 (26th)
View from the enemy: Magic Basketball
Orlando… weren’t the Thunder just there? Oh, that’s right. Just two players and the entire coaching staff. But after a tough, ugly win over the 76ers, Oklahoma City is back in Florida to take on the Magic, a team desperate for good wins as they try and show Dwight Howard they’re an organization worth staying with.
A fun fact, or actually, a not-so-fun fact: The Thunder have never won in Orlando. OKC took down the Magic on opening night, handling Orlando with relative ease despite a shooting showcase from Ryan Anderson. And that’ll be the Magic gameplan again. Exploit the Thunder on the perimeter and free up the middle for Howard.
This brief road trip isn’t an easy one for OKC. One down in Philly, which is big. But now games against the Magic and Hawks. Returning home 2-1 would be nice, but the Thunder are a better team than Orlando and really should take care of business.
Orlando coming in: The Magic played last night, beating the Wizards in D.C.
1. Perk vs. Howard. Opening night, Kendrick Perkins essentially handcuffed Howard to the basket. Orlando’s big man wasn’t a factor whatsoever as Perk pushed him away from the block and had Howard attempting more jumpers than dunks. It’s a challenge to hold down a guy like Howard twice in a row, but that’s what they pay Perk to do.
2. Going small. With Ryan Anderson as Orlando’s starting 4, I would imagine Scott Brooks is fully prepared to play 75 percent of this game small. Which means Serge Ibaka’s minutes will likely get squeezed, but that’s just the breaks. KD will get Anderson with Cook and Harden interchanging at the 3. When Orlando goes bigger with Big Baby or someone else, OKC can match that, but smallball will likely prevail.
3. Defend the perimeter. Again, Orlando wants to beat you by going inside-out. That’s their whole gameplan. Penetrate and kick, dump down and kick, kick and kick. Outside of Hedo Turkoglu and sometimes Jason Richardson, the Magic don’t have a lot of one-on-one threats. They’re a ball movement team that relies on quality shotmaking and Howard to get easy baskets inside.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Basketball.