Durant scores 36, Thunder edge Magic 125-124By JEFF LATZKE, AP Sports Writer Friday, Jan 14, 2011
Durant scored 36 points, Russell Westbrook(notes) added 32 in his fourth career triple-double and the Thunder fought off the Orlando Magic 125-124 Thursday night to stay unbeaten in nationally televised games this season.
Oklahoma City has beaten Chicago, Boston, Denver, Dallas and Orlando once and Portland twice on national TV and plays another marquee game Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Everybody gets up, I guess, for playing on TV. It’s always fun,” said Durant, who is averaging 32.8 points on national TV this season—4.5 points higher than his NBA-leading average. “We only had two or three last year, so to have as many as we have now is a blessing and we just try to have a good showing.”
Westbrook also had 13 assists and 10 rebounds in Oklahoma City’s highest-scoring game of the season. It was the second straight game the Thunder set a season high for points in regulation, and this time they even surpassed their output in a triple-overtime win against New Jersey.
Oklahoma City went 7 for 14 from 3-point range, hitting at least 50 percent for only the sixth time in 40 games this season.
“We just couldn’t stop them at all, but particularly Durant and Westbrook,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They’re great players, they average 50 between them, but we gave them 68.”
Dwight Howard(notes) led Orlando with 39 points and 18 rebounds, and J.J. Redick(notes) made four 3-pointers and scored 18 points while leading a failed fourth-quarter comeback. The Magic, who had been surging following those blockbuster trades that overhauled the roster, lost their second straight after a nine-game winning streak.
Van Gundy criticized his team for playing slow in a 92-89 overtime loss at New Orleans on Wednesday, then Orlando couldn’t slow the Thunder in the second half of a back-to-back for both teams.
“Last night, it was our offense was awful and tonight we couldn’t stop them at all,” Van Gundy said.
Jeff Green(notes) whirled and connected on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the left wing to provide the Thunder a little bit of cushion after Orlando had whittled a 12-point deficit down to 111-110 midway through the fourth quarter.
Redick went 3 for 3 from 3-point range during the Magic’s 14-5 run, and Howard’s hook shot inside got Orlando within one with 4:46 to play. After Westbrook missed a pair of free throws, Jameer Nelson(notes) missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key that would’ve put Orlando in front.
Instead, Durant hit a 3 at the other end and Green followed a few possessions later with his desperation 3 that made it 119-112 with 2:51 remaining.
“When you’re playing against a team like Orlando, they’re going to keep attacking and they have great shooters, so you’ve just got to make play after play,” Green said. “We did that tonight.”
Durant scored Oklahoma City’s final six points as Orlando got within two three times in the final minute. He hit all four of his free throws and a tricky leaner over Hedo Turkoglu(notes) from the left side with 8.1 seconds left after the Thunder had drained the shot clock.
“Obviously, our defense was bad, but we’re just playing out of a hole every night,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t like that trend. Whether we have to make changes in that lineup or something, but those guys—we’re just always in a hole now and that’s not good.”
Krstic had nine of his rebounds, matching his best total for a game this season, while powering Oklahoma City to an early 15-4 edge on the boards that translated into the scoring column, too. He set up Green’s 3-pointer, earned two free throws on a putback try and tipped in another shot during a 16-5 run that provided Oklahoma City with a 22-10 lead.
After missing 10 of its first 13 shots, Orlando got back into the game with strong 3-point shooting led by Ryan Anderson(notes) and Gilbert Arenas(notes). The bench duo combined to go 5 for 10 from 3-point range as the Magic cut the deficit down to two before trailing 64-60 at halftime.
Oklahoma City then teamed Westbrook and fellow point guard Eric Maynor(notes) together in the backcourt late in the third quarter and started expanding on a five-point lead. Thabo Sefolosha(notes) hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter, then hit a jumper to start the fourth that put the Thunder up 98-86.
Oklahoma City shot 56.4 percent, its second-best mark this season.
“The shots are falling for us now. We’re starting to connect on a lot of opportunities that we have,” Green said. “The thing I don’t like is the way we’re allowing the other team to score.”
NOTES: Howard led all Eastern Conference players in early All-Star voting returns released Thursday, with more than 1.5 million votes. Durant is second in the West, and first among forwards, with 1.27 million. … There’s a belief among some in the NBA that the Skirvin Hilton, where the Magic stayed, is haunted. “What haunts me are guys like Kevin Durant,” Van Gundy said. “So, I would say this building is haunted because of guys like him, as are most of the buildings in the NBA. I haven’t run into a haunted hotel, just haunted arenas.” … Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops sat courtside in Oklahoma City’s eighth straight sellout crowd, and its 18th in 21 games this season.