I think Aaron Afflalo described it better than anyone: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dunk game-winner with no time on the clock. That’s kind of hard to do even if you try to set it up.”
I can’t knock Jeremy Lamb too much here. He was the lone defender on a 3-on-1 fast break. He can’t be expected to hold off Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, and Maurice Harkless all by himself. That’s simply asking too much. Heck, Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha tried to get back as well, they just started back too late to catch up to the fast break, and Tobias was too far ahead of Jackson to be stopped by the time Jackson jumped to meet him.
I don’t know how they blew this game after a 15-2 Thunder run to end the 1st quarter had the Thunder up by 13 after 1 (36-23).
Then another Thunder run of 8-2 at the top of the 2nd opened the Thunder lead to 17 (47-30) with 9:00 to play in the first half. With the Thunder lead still at 17 (49-32) at the 7:14 mark, the Magic opened up an 8-2 run of their own to pull within 11 (51-40) with an even 5:00 left on the game clock. Despite that, the Thunder were still able to extend their lead to 14 (65-51) at the half.
A Serge Ibaka dunk started the scoring in the 3rd, extending the Thunder lead to 16 (67-51) with 11:12 to play in the 3rd. Then, almost on cue, the Magic open up a 13-5 run to pull within 8 (72-64) with 6:25 left in the period. As a matter of fact, 8 was the Thunder lead heading into the final quarter (88-80).
I think here is where it starts getting obvious how the Thunder managed to blow this game. They simply let the Magic hang around too long instead of going for the kill early. I can’t stand watching the Thunder when they hit a big lead sometimes, because they seem to have a tendency to start treating the game like nothing more than a shootaround. They just start jacking up jumper after jumper. The thing is, when they stop falling, the other team gets an opportunity to cut into the lead you’ve built. The second they realize their shootarounds are letting the other team back in the game, they need to take the ball to the rack for an easy bucket, and hold the opponent at bay.
I’ll put it like this: If Kevin Durant had driven to the bucket on his final play, instead of trying a jumper, the Magic never would have had an opportunity for the rebound and last-second dunk. Their love for jump shooting has a tendency to do them in at times.
The Magic opened the 4th on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 88-all with 9:13 to play. They even managed to stack up a 4-point lead (97-93) with 6:07 remaining. The Thunder were able to reestablish a 3-point lead (102-99) with 1:56 remaining. And those would be the last Thunder points scored, as the Magic scored the game’s last 4 points to win by a score of 103-102. This puts the Magic at 15-37 for the season (although they are 12-14 at home), while dropping the Thunder to 40-12. This also means that this season series ends in a 1-1 split.
Durant’s 29 points led all scorers. Heck, even Ibaka’s 26 points were the second highest of any player on the court last night. But when Jackson is the only other significant contributor with 12 points, it becomes obvious why they lost. 5 players off of the Thunder bench managed a total of 23 points, which they can usually get from just one or two of their bench guys.
The difference for the Magic was that all but one of their starters hit double figures. Harris’ 18 points led the Magic, but Afflalo dropped 16 of his own, flanked by Glen Davis’ 14, and Nikola Vucevic’s 10. Oladipo provided significant bench scoring for the Magic, finishing with 14 points.
Shake it off, Thunder. The Knicks are coming to town this Sunday for a “High Noon Showdown”. They can’t overlook this squad, seeing as they’re itching to return the beating the Thunder gave them on Christmas Day, when Carmelo Anthony’s absence contributed to the Knicks’ 29-point slaughter. And as far as I can tell, Melo will be suiting up to play, unlike Russell Westbrook, who torched the Knicks when he became the 5th player in NBA history to log a Christmas Day triple-double. Will the Knicks be able to take advantage of Westbrook’s absence, as the Thunder did Melo’s on Christmas Day, and end the season series in a 1-1 split? You won’t have to wait too long to find out. Tip-off is scheduled for Noon CST, and will be broadcast via WWLS The Sports Animal, and ABC.