Oklahoma City’s Speed Proves to be too Much for the Magic to Handle

Oklahoma Thunder player Nerlens Noel makes a dunk at the Amway Center in Orlando Florida on Wednesday January 22, 2020. Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic are 9-3 on the season when they hold teams to under 40% shooting and 17-15 when holding teams to under 50% shooting. Tonight, the Oklahoma City Thunder shot a blistering 60.5% from the field en route to a 120-114 victory over the Magic.

You know the saying, “speed kills”. The Thunder played to their strengths against Orlando, going to their three-guard set of Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Between those three running high pick-and-rolls and high pick-and-pop for threes, to Schroder and Gilgeous-Alexander racing down the court for easy layups, Orlando simply couldn’t find answer to slow them.

“It’s probably to be honest with you, the pick and roll more than anything. I mean, we just got crushed one-on-one. I mean, crushed. You can help if you don’t get blown by, I mean, we go beat so cleanly time after time after time”, said Coach Clifford.

Thunder guards Paul, Schroder, and Gilgeous-Alexander combined for 57% of OKC’s production. Schroder was the high man with 31 points, followed by 18 points and 12 rebounds from Gilgeous-Alexander and 19 points from Paul.

“Their guards are tough. They’re good players. All three of them are good at the pick-and-roll and they’re also good in isolation. I mean, it was hard and then they got [Mike] Muscala coming in, he pops and he can knock the shot down. It was tough”, said Michael Carter-Williams on the Thunder’s guards.

Terrence Ross kept the Magic in the game scoring 12 of his 26 points in the 3rd quarter, hitting a variety of off-balance shots without missing one.

The Magic fought and put themselves in a position to win late. Orlando managed to overcome a 15-point deficit in the 3rd quarter, eventually bringing the score to 107-106 late in the fourth before Gordon missed two free throws that would’ve given Orlando the lead.

 “We were right there. We put ourselves in a position to win. In the last six minutes, we clearly made mistakes on offense and defense. We’re going to need to be better down the stretch as a team”, said Michael-Carter Williams.

Nikola Vucevic contributed 24 points and 11 rebounds albeit on 20 shots. The Thunder made it a point of emphasis to disrupt Vucevic’s rhythm and double-teamed him whenever he got the ball in the paint.

“They collapsed and look, he struggled at both ends. It wasn’t one of his better games. I mean, his numbers, he took twenty shots but he had, you know, he’s a really good player and he didn’t have a good night. That’s it”, said Coach Clifford.

Both teams had 6 players in double-figures as well as nearly identical stats in bench production, steals and turnovers.

Orlando not only out rebounded OKC, notably on offensive rebounds 11-0, they out assisted and were plus 16 in possessions over OKC.  However, Orlando couldn’t contain the speed of the Thunder and it led to their demise.

Next up, the Magic host the red-hot Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics.

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