On Friday night, everyone was able to arrive alive. What everyone in attendance, including a few celebrities, got was one of, if not the best game of the Orlando Magic’s season. An absolute thriller, as Tobias Harris threw down a dunk with a mere tenth of a second left to down the Western Conference’s best team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, 103-102.
Trailing for much of the game, Orlando’s second unit spearheaded a spirited run to get the team back into it. With the right mixture of veterans late—Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis—the Magic completed the comeback, but not without a bit of drama. It was a tense final few minutes as every play seemed to have a profound impact on the game.
A corner three by Thabo Sefolosha gave the Thunder a three-point lead, one that had some Orlando Magic fans heading for the exits. After a few misses, the Magic had the opportunity for a game-changing play, but were called for a five-second violation on an inbound. However, the turnover didn’t deflate the team, they just stepped up and made another big play, as Glen Davis stood in and took contact from Sefolosha to draw a charge.
The next time down the floor, Afflalo was fouled shooting a three. With his team down three, he calmly walked to the line looking to tie the game. First one, swish. Second, clank off the iron, a gut punch to everyone watching the game. However, the third was much like the first, calmly knocked down to make it a one-point game.
Now, the Magic needed a stop, a task easier said than done with Kevin Durant on the floor. Maurice Harkless stepped up and forced Durant into a challenging shot, one he missed. The door of opportunity was open, the Magic could grab a lead … they didn’t. The shot from Afflalo bounced off the rim and into Jeremy Lamb’s hands.
With just enough time to not have to foul, the Magic locked down once again. They forced Durant into another tough, contested long two-pointer. It came off the back iron, Victor Oladipo tipped it, led the break, passed it to Harkless, who passed it back to a trailing Harris for the slam as the clock hit zero. The Magic pulled it out, a heart-pounding, exhilarating win over a powerhouse.
After struggling defensively in the first half, Orlando ramped it up, forcing the Thunder into tough shot after tough shot. Much of the Thunder’s struggles offensively, scoring only 37 points in the second half, were due to Kevin Durant’s struggles. While he finished with 29, he shot a woeful 5-of-13 in the second half. The NBA’s scoring leader was getting some help, with 26 efficient points from Serge Ibaka, and 12 from Reggie Jackson, but that wasn’t enough to outdo the Magic’s overall balance.
That balance was five players in double figures, with another couple—Jameer Nelson and Kyle O’Quinn—finishing with nine each. The leader happened to be the man of the night, Tobias Harris, who finished with 18 crucial points. Arron Afflalo, struggling with his shot, gave the team a working man’s 16, while Victor Oladipo gave them an ever so important 14 off the bench. Joining Oladipo with 14 points was Glen Davis, who scored 10 of those 14 in the third quarter. The final Magic man in double figures was center Nik Vucevic, who notched yet another double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
What Was Harkless Doing?
“My momentum was carrying me behind the basket, so I passed it off to Tobias.” Maurice Harkless got a lot of flack from his teammates for passing the ball, but it worked out, and we all know why. Arron Afflalo put it best in his post-game interview for the Magic’s radio network: “I was shocked Moe passed the ball, I was a little pissed at him for a hot second but glad we won,” Tobias Harris said he was running to congratulate Harkless for the winner when the ball ended up in his hands. He finished it and the team celebrated a meaningful win together at halfcourt. I guess Harkless did know what he was doing after all.
Jacque Vaughn on throwing everyone at Durant:
“It was really our guys committing to not fouling him, which was very important. Not giving him easy points, but contesting shots, just making everything difficult for him. I thought our bigs were great in pick-and-roll coverage, just giving themselves and showing their bodies to Durant. I think at least two quarters we got into the bonus before they did and that was something we needed to do.”
… on last play and thought process:
“It will be interesting on film because as the 50-50 is going on with either Vic or the Thunder guy is going to get it, you know we have a 20-second timeout left so I’m trying to get close to an official thinking about calling a timeout. I see Vic tap it ahead and the rest is a Magic win.”
Stat of the Night
Orlando outscored Oklahoma City 52-30 in the paint.