Thunder-Magic Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 21, 2013
The last time the Oklahoma City Thunder lost consecutive games they responded with one of their best stretches of the season. The Thunder appear poised to get another run started Friday night when they visit the Orlando Magic, who are mired in another lengthy losing streak. Oklahoma City (50-19) is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in a month following a 114-104 setback against Denver on Tuesday and a 90-89 overtime defeat at Memphis on Wednesday. Russell Westbrook's layup gave the Thunder a late one-point lead before Memphis center Marc Gasol tipped in the go-ahead score with less than a second left in a showdown between Western Conference contenders. Kevin Durant finished with a game-high 32 points and Westbrook scored 20, but the pair combined to shoot 18 for 53. Kevin Martin added 17, but no other Thunder player scored more than seven. "It was just one of those games, probably 10 of them a year, where nobody deserves to lose the game, but we were on the bad side of that," coach Scott Brooks said. Brooks' club hadn't dropped two straight since suffering its only three-game skid of the season Feb. 12-20. Following those defeats, Oklahoma City went on to win 11 of 13 by an average of 13.5 points. Oklahoma City, which trails San Antonio by 2 1/2 games for the West's top seed, has an opportunity to begin another hot streak as it opens a stretch of four straight against losing teams. The sinking Magic (18-51) have lost 38 of 44 and suffered their fifth straight defeat Wednesday night, 106-94 at New York. Tobias Harris and reserve Andrew Nicholson finished with 14 points apiece and Kyle O'Quinn added 12 and 14 rebounds off the bench as Orlando played without center Nikola Vucevic because of an illness. "Guys came in and tried to fill in their roles," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "Some good things came from that game." While his status is uncertain for Friday, Vucevic - averaging 12.4 points and 11.5 rebounds - could be a big loss considering he scored 21 and had 14 boards in a 117-104 defeat at Oklahoma City last Friday. The Magic put a scare into the Thunder, rallying from a 27-point first-half deficit to get within four midway through the fourth quarter. Jameer Nelson had 26 points and shot 5 of 12 from 3-point range, while Arron Afflalo scored 20 for the Magic. Nelson and Afflalo, however, will try to bounce back after shooting a combined 3 for 16 - 1 for 8 from beyond the arc - on Wednesday. The Magic shot 7 for 27 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 52-33 in Oklahoma City. That could be an area of concern again, especially if Orlando has to play without its top rebounder in Vucevic. Durant led Oklahoma City with 26 points in the first meeting and has averaged 30.6 on 54.3 percent shooting in his last five games against the Magic. After scoring 83 in regulation and finishing with a season-low 35.7 field goal percentage in Memphis, the Thunder should be in line for a better performance Friday. They put up a season-high 73 points in the first half and shot 55.3 percent overall last week against the Magic. The Thunder stopped a seven-game losing streak in Orlando with a 105-102 win last March as Durant had 38 points and Westbrook scored 29.
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