The Orlando Magic visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday (8 PM Eastern, TNT) a night after losing for the first time in 10 games in a heartbreaker. The Magic fell in overtime to the New Orleans Hornets in a defensive struggle that saw stud center Dwight Howard earn a costly technical foul with just over two minutes left in regulation.
Howard had swiped at Emeka Okafor's arm, which happened to be draped across Dwight's stomach as the pair ran down the floor together. Howard's techical spotted New Orleans a point; the game eventually went to overtime, and Howard missed some crucial free throws there as the Hornets pulled out a victory.
Certainly, the loss will sting. Howard hardly needs motivation, as the clear-cut best big man in basketball. The Thunder don't have a pivot on the caliber of Howard -- no team does -- so Oklahoma City will likely be content to throw multiple bodies at the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Nick Collison, Nenad Krstic and Serge Ibaka figure to get the largest doses of Dwight duty.
On the other end, Oklahoma City, one of the better attacking teams thanks to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, will need to stretch the floor to prevent Howard from having too big an imprint. That could be problematic, given that the Thunder are No. 29 in the NBA in three-point percentage at just 32.9 percent. Among the seven OKC players who take at least one three per game, only James Harden (3.2 per game, 40 percent) and Eric Maynor (1.2, 38 percent) hit at a clip above league average. Durant takes a third of all of OKC's three, but is hitting just 33 percent this season.