Despite leading by 18 entering the fourth quarter against the Orlando Magic, the Oklahoma City Thunder managed to keep the charge at bay and win, 97-89, thanks to 30 points from Kevin Durant. Durant has led the NBA in scoring the past two seasons, and started his quest to secure that title a third year in a row in style, adding five points and six assists to his 30-point outburst.
Dwight Howard scored just three points in the second half, playing under more of a microscope than perhaps ever before with all of the trade rumors swirling, but did snag 15 rebounds and had two blocks in the losing effort. He shot just 4-12 from the field, an atrocious effort for someone who takes all of his shots within inches of the rim.
Ryan Anderson, starting at power forward, had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Magic, hitting six three-pointers in his role as a true stretch 4. James Harden scored 19 points and six rebounds off the bench, keying the Thunder's huge advantage when the reserves came in.
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have started to pull away at home from Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, as Durantula has scored 14 points to lead his team to a 55-41 halftime lead. Durant scored 10 points inside and out in the second quarter as the Thunder have extended their five-point first quarter lead to 13.
Dwight Howard has put the trade rumors behind him, for now, by scoring eight points and nabbing nine rebounds, well on his way to his first double-double of the season. Three other Magic players have at least eight points, too, but the Glen Davis-led bench has scored just six points, while the Thunder's reserves, led by James Harden's 11, have 25, which has been, thus far, the big difference in the game.
The second half, depending on how much Stan Van Gundy plays his starters, figures to be an interesting one leading up to Chris Paul and the debut of Lob City in Oakland in the late game.
It hasn't been the prettiest of first quarters in Oklahoma City, but the Thunder are leading the Orlando Magic 27-22. Dwight Howard, amid all the trade speculation, leads everybody with seven points and five rebounds, dominating the paint, showing that, at least in the first quarter of the season, the distractions haven't affected him.
Kevin Durant has four points and three assists so far, and the Thunder offense has flowed through him thus far, and four different players have at least four points, with Russell Westbrook leading them all with five points. They've played together and, despite Howard's numbers, have played a much more solid defensive game than they did for the second half of last season.
Though it's early, this game looks like, in terms of the scoring margin, it will shape up to be every bit as competitive as the earlier season-opening games on Christmas,
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder will open up their 2011-12 NBA season at home against the Orlando Magic at 8 p.m. on Christmas Day. Durant and company will be looking to build on last season, when they made it to the Western Conference Finals and lost to the Dallas Mavericks in five games. Durant will be wearing a special shoe given to him by Nike for the season-opener against the Magic.