Kevin Durant scored 38 points and could not be stopped late, as the Oklahoma City Thunder came from behind to steal a 105-102 win over the Orlando Magic Thursday night. Durant's effort, combined with a 29-point night from Russell Westbrook, was enough to overcome a dominant game from Dwight Howard, who shot 14-20 for 33 points, including an eight-bucket, 16-point explosion in the third quarter to move the Magic ahead by double digits.
But Howard's heroics, which also included an eight-point fourth quarter, weren't enough to outlast Durant and the Thunder, whom Orlando could not stop when it counted most. Durant one-upped Howard's excellent third quarter by scoring 18 in the final quarter, attacking down the stretch and getting to the line for six free throws in the final five minutes.
When Howard blinked late, missing two shots with between four and five minutes left to go and the Magic lead down to three, the Thunder pounced, scoring on a too-easy James Harden layup, and then a pair of Durant free throws. When Ryan Anderson missed a long three-pointer, Durant made them pay, hitting a three of his own, and Oklahoma City was firmly in the fabled catbird seat.
The Thunder's star-heavy approach to scoring, getting 76 percent of their points from Durant, Westbrook and Harden, bested the Magic's more democratic approach of getting double-digit efforts from all five starters, with Jason Richardson scoring 16 and Ryan Anderson and Jameer Nelson getting 15 each to supplement Howard's big night.
The Thunder handed the Magic only their third loss of the season when Orlando has five or more players in double digits, a feat they have accomplished 18 times this year.
Oklahoma City's finished its strong fourth quarter 10-15 from the field, with nine of those buckets coming from the Durant, Westbrook and Harden triumvirate. The unaccounted for field goal was courtesy of Royal Ivey, playing a larger role for the Thunder of late, knocking down a three-point shot that moved the lead out to five points inside three minutes left to go in the game.
Richardson and Anderson made it interesting at the very end, after Oklahoma City had stretched the lead to seven with 16 seconds to go, by hitting back-to-back threes around a pair of Thunder free throws to cut the lead to three with three seconds left. All Daequan Cook had to do was make one of his two free throws, and the Magic, who were out of timeouts, would be sunk. Cook missed both shots and the Magic had a chance, but a Richardson 26-footer misfired, sending the home fans home unhappy.
Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post sums up the fourth quarter nicely:
But the Thunder, on the second night of an all-road back-to-back, turned the game in the fourth, ratcheting up the defensive intensity to such a degree that the Magic struggled to even get shots up, let alone good ones. And at the offensive end, the combination of Durant and reserve swingman James Harden, the runaway favorite for the league's Sixth Man of the Year Award, proved too much to handle. Harden got his by leaking out in transition, including one spectacular double-crossover and one-handed jam past a backpedaling Howard. Durant, meanwhile, did his thing in the halfcourt. The Thunder gave him the ball, spread out, and let him go to work. That's all she wrote.
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