When: Friday, 30 October 2015 at 7:00 PM EST
Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL
The Oklahoma City Thunder look to build off their opening night victory against their rival, the San Antonio Spurs. After suffering what can basically be deemed a lost season last year, the Thunder came out focused, never panicking even when the lead for the Spurs got up to seven points midway through the fourth quarter. Instead, in true Thunder fashion, the defense clamped down, choking off any driving lanes for Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, and the offense relied on Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Dion Waiters to close out the game in the closing minutes. Enes Kanter provided a spark off the bench with 15 points and 16 rebounds, and the depth on the team became readily apparent as seven players scored at least six points.
This is the first meeting of the season between the Thunder and the Orlando Magic. The Thunder swept the two-game season series last year, winning the first game by 28 points in Orlando and winning the second meeting by seven points in Oklahoma City. In both games, the Thunder's superstars overwhelmed the Magic. In the first game, Durant nearly tallied a triple-double (21 points/11 rebounds/8 assists) in just 28 minutes as the Thunder led 79-45 by the half. In the second game, with Durant out, Westbrook notched a triple-double (25 points/11 rebounds/14 assists), while Waiters added 24 points.
The Orlando Magic currently stand at 0-1 after suffering a heart-breaking loss to the Washington Wizards in their opener. The Magic headed into the fourth quarter of that game with a two-point lead, but after going back and forth, John Wall's runner in the lane with 12 seconds left proved to be the deciding shot in the game. The Magic finished 25-57 last season and are expecting to see results from a rebuild that began four seasons ago when they traded Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. The high draft picks that have been chosen by the franchise in the past few years have begun to show promise. Shooting guard Victor Oladipo is primed to have a breakout year this season. Point guard Elfrid Payton continues to struggle with his shot, but is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court. Forward Aaron Gordon is just now tapping into the potential that has some calling him a more athletic Blake Griffin. Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris are the "veterans" of the group, and provide a versatile front line. Rookie Mario Hezonja has superstar-potential, but will need to adjust to the speed of the NBA. Evan Fournier and C.J. Watson provide some veteran leadership to this young roster.
Probable Starting Lineups
- PG - Elfrid Payton
- SG - Victor Oladipo
- SF - Evan Fournier
- PF - Tobias Harris
- C - Nikola Vucevic
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG - Russell Westbrook
- SG - Andre Roberson
- SF - Kevin Durant
- PF - Serge Ibaka
- C - Steven Adams
3 Things to Watch For
- Small-ball - Other than Vucevic and backup center Dewayne Dedmon, the Magic don't have any post players. They will play small and fast, and will look to use their young athleticism to overwhelm teams. Fortunately, the Thunder has enough depth to play in a variety of fashions to include small-ball. Look for Steven Adams and Kanter to get less minutes in this game, and Kyle Singler and Mitch McGary to get more time.
- Defend the Paint - The Magic is not a very good perimeter team. They ranked 22nd in three-point field goals made last season at 6.8 a game and shot them at a 34.7 percent clip. In one game this season, they are shooting it at a 19.2 percent clip. While the Magic may overwhelm teams athletically, they struggle in the half-court game. With the Thunder's penchant for guarding the paint, this should play right into their wheelhouse.
- Turnovers - The Thunder had 19 turnovers against the Spurs. Luckily, the Spurs lacked the athleticism to turn those turnovers into quick points. Against the Magic, though, that could be a different story.