Game Notes: Magic at Thunder
OKC faces off against the Team of Question Marks.
by Eddie Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
The Oklahoma City Thunder opened up their 2011-12 NBA season journey with a definitive 97-89 victory over the Orlando Magic in the Chesapeake Arena. For a team that three years ago began their transformation, two years ago was finally able to see their young talent get them to the dance, and a team that last year was on the cusp of playing for a Championship, this year’s team started off with the mentality that it’s Championship or bust for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City came out on Sunday and did what they were supposed to do: win.
Orlando, on the other hand—a team that three years ago was playing for the Championship, two years ago was in the Eastern Conference Finals and last year was bounced from the Playoffs in the first round—looks uninspired, lethargic and lacking chemistry.
Orlando came out on Sunday and did what team’s with no leadership and direction do: lose.
This isn’t to say that we should start digging a hole and burying Orlando, but while some teams came back from the lockout with a radar-lock on a title (by standing pat or making trades or free-agent acquisitions), some just say around and wondered what would happen with their superstar. While New Orleans was put out of their misery by the commissioner with Chris Paul going to Clipper-land, Orlando’s Otis Smith and his goons are sitting there like the band that kept playing on the Titanic.
The ship feels like its sinking, not 100 percent sure….so we’ll ride this thing out.
Jeff Van Gundy’s leadership seems to generate immediate improvement at the beginning of his reign, but some leaders’ voices can turn their congregation against them. Its why Larry Brown usually gets out of town before the ship sinks. Because everyone knows it will. Otis Smith hasn’t inspired any confidence in Dwight Howard, and his (4-12 shooting, 11 points, 15 rebounds) performance Sunday reflected his stance on his team and his future.
Up in the air, wishy-washy and inconsistent.
Kudos to Ryan Anderson for shooting the lights out, and Jameer Nelson looking like the borderline point guard we’d all come to love, but this roster doesn’t scare anyone. With a 66-game schedule compressed into 4 and a half months, the Magic will have to play lights out to be a top-4 seed again. Not to mention this roster isn’t exactly spry.
Oklahoma City will fly the friendly skies, cruising at a high altitude. Kevin Durant balled out with 30 points, Russell Westbrook put up a solid 14-7-6, Harden began stating his case for 6th man of the year with 19 off the bench. Perkins came in and did his goon-like work. Role players did their job and Scott Brooks got the best Christmas gift he could ever ask for.
“We just hop on and off planes and play basketball,” said Eric Maynor post-game. It’s a great perspective to have, and the mission is simple. Play hard, do what we do best and let the chips fall where they may. The advantages of your four best players all being under the age of 23. Orlando will fly off into clouds aplenty. Turbulence seems ahead, and the only thing Magic fans can do is buckle their safety belts and pray this ends well.
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