Published January 13, 2015
Now is not the time for the Oklahoma City Thunder to start sputtering as they try to snap a two-game slide Friday night on the road against the Orlando Magic.
The Thunder are still in the running for the West's top seed and sit 2 1/2 games behind the San Antonio Spurs. However, a chance for another Northwest Division title could be in jeopardy with the hard-charging Denver Nuggets pulling up the rear.
Oklahoma City has dropped two in a row since winning three straight and eight of nine games. In Wednesday's tough 90-89 overtime loss at Memphis, the Grizzlies had a 7-6 edge in the extra period and were led by Mike Conley's 24 points. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 32 and 20 points, respectively, for the Thunder.
Durant scored 15 points in the third quarter, when the Thunder registered a 19-14 scoring advantage. A 13-3 run eventually led to a 57-56 lead.
"If your players compete like that, you live with the results. Obviously, it would be a nicer flight to come away with the win, but this is the NBA," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Brooks' resilient squad, which also suffered a home loss to Denver on Tuesday, is still 14-4 in games following a loss this season and 20-14 away from the OKC. The last time Oklahoma City dropped three straight was from Feb. 12-20.
The Thunder will open a two-game homestand Sunday versus Portland and Washington, and is even with Houston in scoring at 106.4 ppg.
Orlando is set to play perhaps two of its toughest games of the season when the Thunder and Miami Heat pay a visit to the Magic Kingdom.
The Magic have dropped five in a row and 10 of 12 games, and are coming off Wednesday's 106-94 defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks in the finale of a four-game road trip. Carmelo Anthony returned for the Knicks after missing three straight games with a knee issue and netted 21 points.
Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson netted 14 points apiece, while Kyle O'Quinn chipped in 12 points and 14 boards for the Magic, who shot 48.1 percent for the game and made 5-of-17 3-pointers.
"I think they're the hardest team to defend in the NBA. With Melo and his ability to score and play the 4 and then with four shooters all around him, it's hard to help out and get back," Harris said of the Knicks.
Magic center Nikola Vucevic missed the Knicks game with an illness and is questionable versus the Thunder. Vucevic is posting averages of 12.4 points and 11.5 rebounds this season.
Orlando, which will entertain rival Miami Monday night, is 10-25 at Amway Center this season. The Magic lost the first meeting with the Thunder, 117-104, last Friday on the road. Durant scored 26 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead OKC, which has won three straight matchups in the series.
Oklahoma City has lost eight of 10 and 11 of its last 14 at Orlando.