Dwight Howard was upset following Orlando’s home loss to lowly Sacramento on Wednesday night, and openly criticized his team for its lack of effort and intensity.
The Magic apparently got the message.
Howard had 40 points and 15 rebounds, and Orlando had four players score in double figures in a 111-88 victory over the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Jason Richardson added 17 points for the Magic, who earned their first victory since the All-Star break and have won three of their last four overall. J.J. Redick scored 16, Jameer Nelson finished with 14 points and Hedo Turkoglu had 10 assists.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 23 points and 16 rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 18 points, James Harden 16 and Daequan Cook 15.
Orlando shot 50 percent from the field, compared to 33 percent for the Thunder, and outrebounded Oklahoma City 53-46.
”That’s what we’re gonna need to be a really good team – all of those things,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Orlando hosts Charlotte on Sunday before beginning a three-game stretch that includes matchups with two of the East’s top teams in Miami and Chicago. The Thunder return home to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Oklahoma City dressed 11 players, but played without new trade acquisitions Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed.
The Magic were in control for most of the game and led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter. But the Thunder kept it interesting.
Oklahoma City closed to 80-70 heading into the fourth and Durant’s jumper with 9:27 left got the Thunder within seven. The Magic answered with an 11-2 surge, capped by a Redick 3-pointer that made it 96-80 with 5:48 remaining.
”I think we played a lot better on the defensive end,” said Howard, who blocked six shots. ”Our help defense was great tonight and individual defense was great. We’ve just got to keep it up.”
After the Sacramento loss, Van Gundy said he was looking to inject some much-needed energy into his team. He promised to go deeper into his bench before the game and played 10 players in the first half.
The Magic responded with one of their most energetic halves in recent memory and led 59-48 at the break.
Richardson, who was just 7 for 24 from beyond the arc in his previous five games, made his first two 3-point attempts against the Thunder and helped set the tone for the Magic, who shot 53 percent in the first half.
Richardson finished 5 for 7 from 3-point range.
The Thunder missed their first eight shots before Serge Ibaka made a jumper with 7:27 left in the first quarter. They finished the half just 15 for 41 (36 percent) and 29 for 87 for the game.
As well as Richardson shot for the Magic, he said defense was the main point of emphasis against the Thunder.
”I think Sacramento was one of those games when you are coming off the All-Star break, you look at their record, and we weren’t ready to play,” Richardson said. ”If we want to be considered a contender this year, we have to come out and play every game like we did tonight. We gotta take what Dwight said and step up to the plate and be ready to play every night.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks called the Magic’s defense ”smothering.”
”They played great defense throughout the night and made us take tough shots and it seems like every shot was contested,” Brooks said.
Durant connected on just seven of his 22 attempts.
”They made some big shots,” he said. ”When we were on our way back, they made sure we didn’t close the gap.”
But it wasn’t all smiles for the Magic.
Howard received his 15th technical foul with 5:02 remaining in the second quarter. He was fouled underneath by Nick Collison, but said something in the moments afterward that was heard by referee Monty McCutchen.
The call leaves Howard one tech away a league-mandated one-game suspension and $5,000 fine.
NOTES: Howard posted his fourth straight game with at least 30 points and earned his 47th double-double of the season. … Oklahoma City recalled C Byron Mullens from the D-League’s Tulsa 66ers. … The Thunder’s first practice with two of their three new additions (Robinson and Mohammed) is expected to be Saturday. C Perkins is expected to be out another week with a sprained left knee. … NFL players Chris Johnson and Mike Sims-Walker, both Orlando natives, were in attendance.