The Oklahoma City Thunder will try to end their slide while extending the Orlando Magic’s misery when the teams meet Wednesday in Florida. Since a 3-0 homestand earlier this month, the Thunder have lost four of five and barely put up a fight in a 97-81 setback at the Western Conference-worst Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
Three full days of rest should help as Oklahoma City works to refine a struggling offense that included a 1-for-12 shooting effort at Dallas by star forward Paul George, who also missed practice Monday due to an illness. “If you look at the fact of the raw numbers of our shooting, we haven’t shot the ball like we’re potentially capable of,” coach Billy Donovan told reporters Monday. “That’s the optimism that I have going forward because I think that we can get to that point.” The offense could wake up against a Magic squad that is allowing an average of 117.4 points during a dismal nine-game slide. Six of the losses have been by double digits, including Monday’s 121-109 defeat in Indiana to cap a four-game road trip.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Oklahoma, FSN Florida (Orlando)
ABOUT THE THUNDER (8-11): Russell Westbrook has two triple-doubles in his last four games and fell an assist shy in the other two affairs as he begins to climb back toward the numbers that led to an MVP last season. Unfortunately, Westbrook (40.1 percent) has his lowest field-goal percentage since his rookie season, Carmelo Anthony (42.4) owns a career low mark and George (42.2) is down nearly four percentage points from last season as the offense continues to lack rhythm. “If you execute the play well and really set up your guy, do all the little things, then that’ll allow for the passes,” center Steven Adams told the team’s website. “Obviously we need to move the ball more, but setting up your guy to get a nice, open pass – a crisp, easy one – that makes a big difference, too. All those small things really add up into the offense and really make us have a better shot, a better percentage shot.”
ABOUT THE MAGIC (8-13): Jonathon Simmons replaced Terrence Ross in the starting lineup Monday as coach Frank Vogel looked for some sort of spark, but there was little impact on the defensive end and a 36-point fourth quarter by Indiana proved to be the difference. “It’s really frustrating because I thought we were going to win that one,” forward Aaron Gordon told reporters. “I thought we came out with great energy, but there was just a scoring drought there (early in the fourth quarter) for us. We’re going through a drought and they are red hot.” Leading scorer Evan Fournier is averaging 10.7 points on 32.4 percent shooting over his last three games.
1. Westbrook averaged 49 points, 13.5 assists and 12.5 rebounds as the teams split two meetings last season.
2. Magic C Nikola Vucevic recorded five straight double-doubles.
3. Oklahoma City entered Tuesday second in the NBA in scoring defense (98.1), while Orlando was 28th (110).
PREDICTION: Thunder 106, Magic 99