Thunder 117, Magic 104

Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City Thunder let a 27-point lead whittle down to single digits before they were able to pull out a 117-104 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder (49-17) led by four points with six minutes left in the game. The Magic (18-48) had three straight possessions with a chance to cut the lead in half or better, but they came up empty each time.
Serge Ibaka gave the Thunder a five-point advantage when he hit one of two free throws. Ibaka then came up with a block on Jameer Nelson that got Oklahoma City running, and it ended with Kevin Durant getting a layup that put the home team up by seven with 4:26 left.
After Nelson hit a 3-pointer, Durant answered with an old-fashioned three-point play. Tobias Harris scored, but once again, Oklahoma City had an answer. As the shot clock ticked down, Russell Westbrook drained a 3-pointer and put Thunder up 112-104 at the 2:06 mark.
Oklahoma City came up with consecutive defensive stops that closed the night on the Magic.
Nelson led the Magic with 26 points on 10-for-21 shooting. That included going 5-for-12 from behind the arc. Nikola Vucevic added 21 points and 14 rebounds while Arron Affalo scored 20 points.
Durant paced the Thunder with 26 points and nine rebounds to go along with six turnovers. That gave him 14 turnovers in the last two games.
Westbrook chipped in with 23 points, six assists and six rebounds. Ibaka scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds.
The game began to get out of hand for the Magic in the second quarter. And it was the Thunder bench that did most of the damage. First-round draft pick Perry Jones came off the bench and had six points, two rebounds and a block in the first four minutes. It was his first meaningful action in weeks.
The Oklahoma City lead jumped to 27 points midway through the second quarter.
The Thunder had 10 players score at least four points in the first half.
But it was Durant's driving layup right before the end of the half that gave the Thunder their biggest first-half scoring output this season. Oklahoma City led 73-56 at halftime.
Spearheaded by Vucevic and Nelson, Orlando closed the gap to 92-84 with 30 seconds left in the third. But Westbrook hit a 3-pointer to close out the period and stem the Magic tide. The Thunder went up 95-84 heading into fourth.
NOTES: Oklahoma City's Hasheem Thabeet sat out with a sore back. ... Rarely does Oklahoma City lose to teams with losing records. Entering Friday, the Thunder owned a 26-3 record against teams that were under .500 at the time. However, they have a 1-2 record against the two conference leaders, the Spurs and Heat. "We've been a team that is really focused on playing every game the best that we can play," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "We have to focus on what we do."... In a season of tough losses, the one bright spot for Orlando has been the acquisition of Tobias Harris. The power forward has averaged 15.6 points and 7.4 rebounds since coming over from Milwaukee prior to the trade deadline. That includes posting 17 points and 15 rebounds in a loss to the Lakers Tuesday. "We knew that he would be able to contribute," Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. "To what level, we had to wait to see until he got with us. He has really fit in pretty seamlessly. It's been great to see. Really competitive guy. He has caught on pretty fast."