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Resilient Magic Comeback Falls Short in OKC

2013 March 15
by Matt Jensen
Moe Harkless drew the Kevin Durant assignment tonight yet still managed a career high six steals

Moe Harkless drew the Durant assignment yet still managed a career high six steals

The Orlando Magic fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder by a score of 117-104 Friday night.  Just looking at the final score doesn’t do this game justice.   The Magic were down as many as 27 points in the first half, yet twice in the second half managed to get within four.  Credit the coaching staff, and more importantly the players, for fighting back in this one.  There have been many themes this season with this young team, but resiliency is one that you hope they will carry with them once this forgotten season is ended.

Jameer Nelson led the Magic in scoring tonight with 26 points.  Nik Vucevic added a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, playing well inside offensively against the more experienced front line of the Thunder.

For entertainment purposes I’ll skip over the majority of the first half.  The Magic did score 56 points, but gave up 73, in what could best be described as atrocious team defense.  Not to condone the awful defense, but the Thunder did shoot exceptionally well, and played as if the 24-second shot clock was lowered to 14.

Down 17 at halftime, it would have been very easy for Orlando to pack it in and think about playing another day.  The Magic gradually kept pecking away at the lead, as Oklahoma City played like a team that knew it had this one in the win column.  That sloppy play by the Thunder got the Magic to within nine at the end of the 3rd quarter. 

Tobias Harris keyed the rally with his ability to get to the rim.   Harris had the best night of the season by any Magic player at the free throw line, going a perfect 10-10 at the stripe. Big Baby went 9-10 earlier in the season, while Arron Afflalo went 9-9 back in December.

Tobias finished the night with 19 points  in 40 minutes of action and held a true shooting percentage of 66%. By comparison, Afflalo finished the night with 20 points, but had a true shooting percentage of just 41.7%. Tobias, and his ability to create offense for himself and get to the line, has the ability – if not already there-  to be a significantly more efficient scorer. He certainly was against OKC.

The 4th quarter saw the Magic sneak to within four points on two different occasions. When Orlando was seemingly getting all the bounces and rolls due a team that’s making a comeback win,  three early OKC 3-point makes doomed the Magic on Friday night.  I’m sure adrenaline was flowing, but Jameer Nelson and Afflalo needed to make better decisions.  Getting the offense going through Tobias would have been the wise choice.  As the torch gets passed to Harris, this will be the mismatch the Magic need to exploit in late game situations.

It’s a shame the Magic couldn’t commemorate MBO’s 3rd anniversary with a win tonight, but the will of this young team came through, and at this point of the season, that may be more important than wins.  Next up for the Magic is a St. Patrick’s Day matinée in Milwaukee against J.J. Redick and the Bucks.  Tip off is set for 1pm EST.

Matt Jensen is new to the MBO team and a proud contributing writer. He operates as MBO’s Sr. Sioux Falls Correspondent. Follow him on Twitter here.

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