Gameday Dish: Thunder at Magic

The NBA-best Oklahoma City Thunder (28-7) come to central Florida tonight to take on the Orlando Magic. Coach Scott Brooks’ guys arrive on a six-game winning streak and are virtually unbeatable at home at 15-1. On the road they’re tough as well at 13-6. Coach Stan Van Gundy’s squad is a strong 12-6 at The Amway Center and 23-13 overall. The Magic currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division, five games behind the surging Miami Heat.

These two sides matched up on Christmas Day in their season-opening game in OKC. Three-time All-Star Kevin Durant scored 30 points, and the Thunder won 97-89. In the defeat, First Team All-NBA C Dwight Howard had 15 boards, but only 11 points. PF Ryan Anderson led the Magic with 25 points while shooting 6 of 12 from 3-point land.

Two-time league scoring champion Kevin Durant has averaged only 15.3 ppg in Orlando over four career visits – his worst mark against any of the league’s 29 other teams. However, in Sunday’s All-Star Game KD shot 14 for 25 and notched 36 points to lead the West’s best to a 152-149 win over the East and earn the game’s MVP trophy. Thunder PG Russell Westbrook also played well in the talent-filled contest, scoring 21 points on 10 for 17 from the field.

Both the Thunder and Magic are coming off hard-fought wins. OKC beat the Atlantic-Division leading Philadelphia 76’ers 92-88. With both KD and Westbrook having off-shooting nights, the Thunder had to rally in the fourth quarter for the ‘W’. Durant had 23 points on 7 for 18 shooting and Westbrook had 22 points on 7 for 20 from the field, though he pulled down an amazing 13 boards from his PG spot.

Orlando won in D.C. last night, topping the reeling Washington Wizards 102-95 for their sixth straight loss. The much-speculated-upon Dwight Howard had 14 points, 12 boards and 5 swats. But the star of the night for coach Van Gundy was 4th-year PF 6’10” Ryan Anderson, who scored 23 points and had 15 boards. On a night when big man Howard was the constant target of double teams, the perimeter guys stepped up and went 15 for 36 from triple-point territory.

Since moving from Seattle to OKC in 2008, the Thunder have beaten every other NBA team on the road except for the Magic. With a victory tonight, OKC will equal their season high of seven consecutive wins. While the Thunder display the great one-on-one abilities of Durant, Westbrook and Harden, the Magic will be hoisting up long shots. Look for an exciting, meaningful, effort-filled 48 when Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Craig Sager and I bring you Oklahoma City vs. Orlando at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.

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