It is amazing how quickly and cruelly fortunes can change in the NBA. The Orlando Magic had been sailing along and tied a franchise record with a nine-game winning streak. Then, in the span of 24 hours, the Magic suffered two heartbreaking losses in two very different basketball games.
On Wednesday night in New Orleans the Magic engaged in a slow-paced slugfest against the Hornets. First year head coach and former Magic player, Monty Williams has his team milking the shot clock, playing tenacious defense, and controlling the tempo of the game. The result was a low-scoring, closely contested 92-89 overtime victory for New Orleans.
The Magic defended well enough to keep the score close, and made some clutch shots to force the extra period, but fell short and missed a chance to set the franchise victory for consecutive victories.
One night later In Oklahoma City, the Magic took on the run and gun Thunder in a game that turned into a real Old West shootout. Neither team was able to consistently stop the other, and it was a case of too much Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for Orlando.
Durant, the league’s leading scorer dropped in 36 points on 13-of-17 shooting. Durant’s fellow 22-year-old sensation Westbrook recorded his fourth career triple-double with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. Not even a 39-point, 18-rebound effort by the Magic’s sensational big man Dwight Howard was enough to overcome the hot-shooting Thunder, who never trailed and eked out a 125-124 victory.
Common themes in both games spelled trouble for the Magic.
In New Orleans and in Oklahoma City, Orlando started poorly, fell behind early, and played catch up basketball the entire night.
Balanced scoring had been a hallmark for the Magic during the nine-game winning streak, not so in New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
Wednesday against the Hornets, only Howard, Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson scored in double figures.
Thursday night In Oklahoma City, the same trio of Howard, Richardson and Anderson were joined by J.J. Redick to combine for almost 75 percent of Orlando’s points.
Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Brandon Bass and Gilbert Arenas all struggled offensively for the Magic in both games, shooting a combined 25 percent from the field in the back-to-back contests.
Two close losses against two very good teams on the road is certainly nothing to be overly concerned about, but the Magic need a quick turnaround before Saturday night’s game at Minnesota.
The Timberwolves, despite featuring the league’s number one rebounder, Kevin Love, have just 10 victories on the season, and might just be the elixir the Magic need to break the two-game losing streak.