Magic-Thunder Preview

While the Oklahoma City Thunder are near the top of the NBA in

almost every offensive category, their defensive efforts are paying

off, too.

The Thunder aim for a seventh consecutive home victory Friday

night as they face the woeful Orlando Magic.

With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way,

Oklahoma City (48-17) is second in the league in scoring with 106.5

points per game. The Thunder, though, also have proven to be a

force on the defensive end, posting a 42.8 opponent field-goal

percentage to rank second in the NBA.

Winners of nine of 11, the Thunder have surrendered an average

of 91.8 points over their last five games – 5.2 less than their

season mark.

They’ve been particularly stingy at home recently, as the last

five opponents to visit Oklahoma City have averaged 83.4 points on

35.3 percent shooting. All of the Thunder’s last 14 home games have

been double-digit victories except for a Feb. 14 loss to

league-best Miami.

Their defensive prowess was on full display Wednesday in a

110-87 home victory over Utah. The Thunder, who shot 53.6 percent

and limited the Jazz to 35.0, scored 25 points off 20 turnovers and

held a 48-35 rebounding edge.

“We did a good job of making plays and executing,” said coach

Scott Brooks, whose team has outscored opponents by an average of

23.8 points during its six-game home winning streak. “Our defense

really won the game.”

Oklahoma City improved to 36-1 when limiting opponents to 98

points or fewer and 35-0 when holding them below 43.5 percent from

the field.

Brooks credited Kendrick Perkins with the Thunder’s solid play

on the defensive end. Though the veteran big man went scoreless

with three rebounds Wednesday, Oklahoma City had a plus-25 scoring

margin when he was on the floor – tops on the team. Perkins helped

hold Utah leading scorer Al Jefferson to eight points on 4-of-13


“I think if you had to give a game ball you would certainly give

one to (Perkins),” Brooks said. “He was a big impact throughout the

game not only on his man but anchoring our defense. … He’s been

doing it all year. He takes pride in his individual defense and our

team defense.”

The Thunder appear primed for another good night defensively,

facing a Magic team which is among the league’s worst at 94.2

points per game. They’ve scored more than 100 just five times in

their last 22.

Oklahoma City is facing Orlando (18-47) for the first time since

sweeping last season’s two games as Durant averaged 34.0 points.

While the Magic stayed close in both contests thanks to significant

contributions from Dwight Howard, they could have a hard time

keeping up Friday.

Orlando is coming off an emotional 106-97 loss to the Los

Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, dropping to an NBA-worst 6-34 since Dec.

21. Jameer Nelson scored 21 points and Tobias Harris added 17 and a

career-high 15 rebounds, but the Magic had no answer for Howard,

who posted a season-high 39 points and 16 boards in his return to


“We competed and gave everything that we had, but unfortunately

we came up short,” Nelson told the team’s official website. “This

was something we needed, especially our young guys going through

this atmosphere.”

Harris has averaged 15.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in 10 games

since coming over from Milwaukee prior to the trade deadline.

The Thunder and Magic meet again next Friday in Orlando.