Durant’s 25 lift Thunder over Magic, 97-89
Posted at: 03/23/2013 2:12 PM
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
(AP) ORLANDO, Fla. - Kevin Durant scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, Russell Westbrook had 19 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off the Orlando Magic 97-89 on Friday night.
The Magic briefly took a one-point lead in the final period, but the Thunder hit eight of their final 10 free throws to help seal the victory.
The win ends a two-game skid for the Thunder, who played the first of four straight games against teams with losing records. They entered the night trailing West-leading San Antonio by 2 1/2 games.
Maurice Harkless led the Magic with 25 points, followed by Jameer Nelson with 16.
Orlando lost its sixth straight.
They also lost starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo in the second quarter with a right hamstring injury.
After a sluggish first half the Magic took their first lead since early in the first half, 78-76, on a jumper by Beno Udrih with 7:29 to play in the game.
The Thunder fought back and were leading by a point when Durant blocked a layup attempt by Tobias Harris and knocked down a 3-pointer on the other end to push their lead to 86-82.
Udrih hit a 3 to cut the deficit to a point again and following Kendrick Perkins’ missed jumper the Magic tied it again on a free-throw by rookie Kyle O’Quinn.
The Thunder got blocks on Magic layup attempts on back-to-back possessions and broke the stalemate when Durant’s 3 from the wing made it 89-86.
O’Quinn responded with a layup, but Durant hit 1 of 2 free-throws a few possessions later to give the Thunder a two-point cushion.
The Magic came up empty on their ensuing touch and Durant connected on a pair from the foul line that made it 92-88 with 39.1 seconds remaining.
Orlando turned it over out of a timeout, and the Thunder to closed things out at the free throw line.
O’Quinn made his first career start in place of center Nik Vucevic, who missed his second consecutive game with what Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said was a mild concussion.
Vucevic was injured during Orlando’s loss Tuesday night at Indiana.
The Magic didn’t get far into the game before losing Afflalo a few minutes into the second quarter.
Afflalo was injured while chasing a loose ball and needed assistance from teammates walking off the floor. He did not return.
Without him Oklahoma led by as many as 15 points in the first half, exploiting the Magic’s lack of depth in the front court.
The Thunder racked up 26 points in the paint in the opening 24 minutes, led by Serge Ibaka with 11.
The Magic were forced to go small at times, leading to several defensive breakdowns and layups for Oklahoma City.
NOTES: With O’Quinn’s start on Friday the Magic now have had 22 different starting lineups this season. "How many stages are in the Tour de France?" Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said when asked about the latest incarnation of his lineup. "I’m trying to get there."... Before his concussion, Vucevic had started the first 68 games of the season and was the last Magic player to miss a start. Vaughn said his return is to be determined as he goes through the league’s new concussion protocol. ... PGA golfer Bubba Watson, who is competing at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, was in attendance.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)