This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The New Myriad, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Turner Network Television
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), AM 580 WDBO
Previous Meeting(s): None.
Though the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic possess nearly identical records, they are very different teams. Why? Because the Magic are 9-3 since making a mid-December trade that turned them from an Eastern Pretender into a contender. It's also worth noting that they won 9 straight, and two of the losses came immediately after the trade.
The trade hasn't worked because the Magic have had some sort of drastic change in strategy. Rather, it's because they were willing to take on other team's problems. When trading Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, and Marcin Gortat, the the Suns figured that was enough value to give up their best scorer in Jason Richardson, as long as the Magic were willing to take Hedo Turkoglu, who was perceived as a financially under-performing player. In reality, while the Suns did get good value, the Magic probably got the two best players in the trade. Turkoglu is finally able to play on a team where he can perform well (his stats are much better than pre-trade), and Richardson is still doing his thing. Additionally, the Magic traded Rashard Lewis (whose stats have steadily gone down since joining Orlando) for Gilbert Arenas, a player with a lot of talent but not a whole lot of emotional stability.
Below: More Trade Analysis, How the Game Will Go, Prediction!
All in all, the Magic lost two aging stars and a couple of role players for three stars smack dab in the middle of their prime. It extends the Magic's lease on life, allowing them to compete with their current roster for two more years. Are there disadvantages? Well, without Gortat, the Magic are left with Ryan Anderson at Center, and he's much more outside oriented. Also, there's always a risk with Arenas, as one minute he could be scoring great numbers for your team, and the next he could be out for the season with an injury or suspension. You just never know with him.
Regardless, we're here to talk about tonight's game, right? Well, we haven't played Orlando since November 18th, 2009. We might have had essentially the same team, but that was back when we gave minutes to Kevin Ollie and Kyle Weaver. We dominated them at home, they dominated us on the road. This year will be a different story, with the Magic having a solid 9 man rotation that relies on getting production from everyone on the roster. Thus, the Thunder should focus on limiting the Magic to a select few scorers, giving them problems in the clutch. The Thunder also might want to dig deep into their rotation, as the Magic are also coming off of a back-to-back and are unlikely to go deeper than 8 players. But, when it comes down to it, I don't think the Thunder have the ability to shut down individual players with the way they've been playing this year, and they will ultimately come up short.
Prediction: Orlando 103, Oklahoma City 100