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Disgruntled Thunder meet slippin' Magic (Update: Durant out with sprained right toe)

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Will OKC bungle an easy win?

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Durant is out again tonight...I feel like we've seen this story before...
Durant is out again tonight...I feel like we've seen this story before...
William Bennett Berry

Update: Kevin Durant is out tonight, and Dion Waiters will start at the small forward spot.

***

The Magic have been in an absolute tailspin since they last saw the Thunder three weeks ago. They haven't come close to winning a game, despite competing in the fourth quarter of a few contests. Jacque Vaughn is said to be on the verge of losing his job. Here's what Orlando Pinstriped Post writer Zach Oliver had to say about the team on January 30th:

"Orlando's defense, which the team preached would be their backbone during the preseason and training camp, has disappeared into a cloud of dust. Almost like someone vaporized it.

Counting Thursday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Magic have given up over 100 points in each of their last 11 games, winning only the two aforementioned against Chicago and Houston. The defense that they wanted to build around is gone, and no matter what coach Jacque Vaughn says, it's not changing. He wants them to play more physically and he continues to search for things to get them going, but just can't find them.

This is a team that has the talent and has shown flashes of potential, but they just can't put it together on a nightly basis. On some nights their offense is as fluid as the San Antonio Spurs'; on others, it looks like a high school team 20 minutes down the road. On some nights the defense is crisp, making strong rotations and looking solid overall. On other nights it resembles Swiss cheese.

The Magic's inability to find consistency on a nightly basis is one of their biggest reasons for their poor play. A lot of it has to do with their energy level and how much they buy into what Coach Vaughn is teaching, which, in the end, comes back to the coach himself."

Despite a couple of games of good mojo following a pace adjustment, it appears the league has figured the Magic out. I can't claim to watch the Magic night in and night out. But when I do see them, they're always struggling to defend the paint. Furthermore, Orlando doesn't have enough consistent shooting to be offensively viable half the time.

That's good news for the Thunder, who are desperately in need of a win. During OKC's loss to Memphis on Saturday night, several players were visibly frustrated with their play. Offensively, the Thunder are having trouble establishing themselves from the perimeter. Defensively, OKC adjusts very poorly to teams that move the ball from side to side. OKC also struggles against teams that use a motion offense to draw mismatches, because the Thunder love to switch on screens.

Tonight, I don't think the Magic present a problem from any of those angles. The Thunder are so broken right now that they could feasibly come out of the gate limping and give the Magic some confidence. But it will be key for Durant and Westbrook here to establish a lead early, so the Thunder can be reminded of how well they should play. The Magic are an ideal matchup for the Thunder through and through, so there's no reason they should struggle with this game. As long as OKC gets to the basket and gets themselves in the bonus, it won't matter how well they shoot from three.

If you need any more evidence that OKC has the upper hand, remember that they scored a Thunder franchise high 79 points in the first half against Orlando three weeks ago. I can't argue against historic numbers.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 110, Orlando Magic 99.

What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!

2014-15 NBA Season Game 48
@
15-35
(Lost 8)

23-24
(Lost 2)
February 2nd, 2015
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7:00 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network Sun Sports
Injury Report: Victor Oladipo (Questionable), Mitch McGary, Kevin Durant (Out)
This Season's Matchups: Jan 19 (W 127-99)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Elfrid Payton
Andre Roberson SG Victor Oladipo (or Evan Fournier)
Perry Jones SF Aaron Gordon
Serge Ibaka PF Tobias Harris
Steven Adams C Nikola Vucevic

Looking for tickets to tonight's game? Ticketmaster has you covered. Click the link for tons of seating options at the Peake.