Tag Archives: Nikola Vucevic

Oklahoma City Thunder at Orlando Magic preview (Game 40 of 82)

durant thunder harris magic

  • When: Sunday, 18 January 2015 at 5:00 PM CST
  • Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL

Finally! I’m pretty sure that was every Thunder fans’ reaction after defeating the Golden State Warriors on Friday night. It wasn’t just that the Thunder got a win against one of the current elite in the NBA. It was how they did it. Their way. It was waves and waves of scoring brought on by Kevin Durant’s greatness and Russell Westbrook’s chaos. It was Serge Ibaka coming in and being the third best player on the team. It was Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, and Reggie Jackson putting the pressure on the Warriors when the dynamic duo were on the bench. It was ball pressure causing turnovers. It was defense quickly turning into offense. It was beautiful. It was Thunder basketball.

This is the first of two meetings between these two teams this season. Even though these two teams are on opposite ends of the team spectrum (one is still rebuilding, while the other is (supposedly) a title contender), their games last season were surprisingly close as the teams split the season series.

The Opponent

NBA: Houston Rockets at Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic come into the game with a 15-28 record. Their season has been a series of “one step forward, and three steps back.” They’ll win one or two in a row, and then lost 3 or 4 in a row. Its the tale of a young team just now learning how to win. They are a scrappy bunch, but rank in the bottom third of nearly every statistical category, scoring only 94.9 points per game, while giving up 100.1. Leading the charge is the young backcourt duo of Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo. After missing the start of the season with knee and facial injuries, Oladipo has started to come on as of late, averaging 23.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in the last 5 games. On the other wing, Tobias Harris brings a multifaceted game to the table as an outside/inside players. Unfortunately, Harris has missed the last 4 games with a sprained ankle, and is listed as day to day for this game. Channing Frye, the prized free agent signing for the Magic, has struggled this season, averaging only 7.9 points per game on 39.5% shooting from 3-point territory. Up front, Nikola Vucevic is a double/double waiting to happen and one of the better young big men in the league. Off the bench, the Magic have a veteran playmaker in Luke Ridnour, a veteran shooter in Ben Gordon, and a trio of young players (Evan Fournier, Kyle O’Quinn, and Maurice Harkless) who can be inconsistent at times.

Probable Starting Line-up

Orlando Magic

  • PG – Elfrid Payton
  • SG – Victor Oladipo
  • SF – Devyn Marble
  • PF – Channing Frye
  • C – Nikola Vucevic

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – One way for a young team to stay in games against elite competition is by winning the battle of the boards. The more opportunities young teams have to score, the more confident they get. The Magic are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA (28th in the league), but have a center that has amassed rebounding totals of 16, 17 (twice), and 23 in games this season. Steven Adams and Kendrick Perkins will need to use their strength to push Vucevic out of position.

Orlando Magic v Chicago Bulls

2. Perimeter defense – Its not a secret that Serge Ibaka struggles defensively against stretch 4’s. Even though Channing Frye is struggling this season, he still is one of the better stretch 4’s in the league when he is on. This just feels like one of those games where Frye could go off on the perimeter against the Thunder.

3. Consistency vs. inconsistency – The Thunder had a great game on Friday, but have failed to build off of any momentum in the past few weeks. With a 5-game road trip coming up, the Thunder need to build off of their performance on Friday and carry that with them on the road.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Orlando Magic preview (Game 52 of 82)

oladipo adams thunder magic

  • When: Friday, 07 February 2014 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL

Young, scrappy teams. I remember the days when we used to be one. Those days when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were just beginning to learn how to work their two man game. When Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic were considered our post presence. But mostly, I remember how we never backed down, no matter how big the deficit or drought was. And then eventually, I remember us starting to win some of those close games.

The Thunder’s Friday night opponent find themselves in the beginning stages of a rebuild. But, for the past two seasons, they’ve brought it every time they play the Thunder. Even though the Thunder have won the last 3 meetings between these two teams, they’ve needed to make a push late into the 4th quarter in order to come out with the victory.

The Opponent

afflalo oladipo orlando magic

The Orlando Magic come into the game with the second worst record in the leage, at 14-37. They are in year 2 of a rebuild and have amassed some good young talent and some assets for the future. Unfortunately, the word rebuild is usually associated with the word bad, and that has been the case with the Magic this season. They are in the bottom third of the league in most statistical categories. They are led by SG Arron Afflalo, who leads the team in scoring at just under 20 points per game. Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson run the offense and keeps a steady hand on the young team. Up front, Nikola Vucevic is a double double machine, averaging 13.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. The bench is young and features Rookie of the Year contender Victor Oladipo and second year SF Maurice Harkless.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Orlando Magic

  • PG – Jameer Nelson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Tobias Harris
  • PF – Glen Davis
  • C – Nikola Vucevic

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Limit the Turnovers – Young, athletic teams live off of the transition game. With a lack of 3-point shooters, Orlando generates a lot of its offense in transition. Cutting back on live ball turnovers will greatly reduce Orlando’s ability to create offense in transition.

2. Durant/Ibaka pick and roll – Orlando will be very hard pressed to defend this with Davis and Harris/Oladipo in the game. I expect the Thunder to exploit this and for Ibaka to end up with 20+ points and for Durant to have 6+ assists.

ibaka durant thompson salmons thunder kings

3. Take away their Confidence – The last couple of times we’ve played the Magic, we’ve allowed them to stick around until late in the 4th quarter, when we finally put a string of makes together and put the game out of reach. But it should never get to that point with a rebuilding team like the Magic. Snuff the confidence from the outset, and the game should be over by the beginning of the 4th quarter.

Orlando Magic vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 66 of 82)

magic thunder

  • When: Friday, 15 March 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

If you are an established small market team that builds through the draft and smart, cost-effective moves, you are said to be using the San Antonio model of team building. But if you are a rebuilding team, collecting draft picks and young players, you are said to be using the Oklahoma City model of team building. The Oklahoma City Thunder are using the San Antonio blueprint, while battling the Spurs for Western Conference supremacy. The Orlando Magic, on the other hand, are using the OKC model to rebuild after Dwight Howard napalmed the team for two consecutive seasons.

Two years after making it to the Finals, the Magic were struggling to remain relevant in an Eastern Conference that now boasted a super team in Miami, a wunderkind point guard in Chicago, and a scoring title threat in New York. Howard could see the writing on the wall, but waffled between staying with the team and wanting to be traded. The indecision on the part of both parties (Howard and the Magic’s) delayed the inevitable, frustrating both the Magic front office and the fan base for 2 seasons. Howard was eventually traded this past offseason to the Los Angles Lakers in a four team deal that included 12 players and 5 draft picks.

Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Clippers

Heading into this meeting with the Thunder, the Magic find themselves at 18-47, good for 14th in the Eastern Conference. After surprisingly starting the season with a 12-13 record, the Magic proceeded to lose 34 of their next 40 games. This will be the first of two meeting between these two teams. The Thunder swept the season series last season in two tightly contested games.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Orlando Magic

  • PG – Jameer Nelson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Moe Harkless
  • PF – Tobias Harris
  • C – Nikola Vucevic

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

Protect the ball – Orlando is an extremely young, athletic team that feasts on turnovers. If the Thunder get too careless with the ball, the Magic will make them pay in transition. There’s no need to give a young team momentum to think they can win at your place.

ibaka and perk

Rebounding – The Magic are 15th in the league in rebounding, but have a double-double machine in athletic center Nikola Vucevic. With Vucevic patrolling the paint and Mo Harkless/Tobias Harris keeping Serge Ibaka outside of the paint, it will be up to Kevin Durant and the guards to help out in the rebounding department.

durant posting

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook: Post up offense – Both Westbrook and Durant will have significant height advantages on their defenders. Look for them to post up early and often.

Game Preview – Oklahoma City Thunder @ Philadelphia 76ers (Game 35 of 66)

The Oklahoma City Thunder start the second half of the season on the road, facing a 3 game East Coast swing. The trip starts in Philadelphia where they face the surprising Atlantic division leading Philadelphia76ers. This is the first, and only, meeting between these two teams for this season. The Thunder won both meetings last season, but each game was close, with one going into overtime.

The Opposition

The 76ers come into the game with a 21-14 record, good for 1st in the Atlantic division and 4th in the Eastern Conference. They trounced the Detroit Pistons in their previous game, but had lost their previous 5 games before the All Star break. The Sixers are very similar to the Denver Nuggets in that they don’t have an established superstar, but have good players and have a deep rotation. They have 10 players that average at least 17 minutes per game. They are the best defensive team in the league, in terms of points allowed, giving up only 87 points per game. They have 6 players who average double figures, led by their backcourt trio of Lou Williams (15.6 ppg), Jrue Holiday (13.5 ppg), and Andre Iguodala (12.3). The front court is led by veteran Elton Brand (10.1 ppg and 6.6 rpg) and Thad Young (12.9 ppg and 4.7 rbg). Starting center Spencer Hawes is out with an Achilles injury. Due to their versatility, the bench is one of the more stronger ones in the league, led by guards Evan Turner and Lou Williams, forward Thad Young, and rookie center Nikola Vucevic.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Philadelphia

  • PG – Jrue Holiday
  • SG – Jodie Meeks
  • SF – Andre Iguodala
  • PF – Lavoy Allen
  • C – Elton Brand 

Oklahoma City

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Daequan Cook
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

Match-up to Watch Out For

Russell Westbrook vs. Jrue Holiday

When Russell Westbrook was an unheralded sophomore, Jrue Holiday was the highly recruited freshman point guard that everyone was talking about. Needless to say, things have changed a bit since then. WhileHolidayhas begun to carve out his own niche in the league, Westbrook has taken the league by storm and become one of its top point guards. WhileHolidayis a better shooter, Westbrook is a better at getting into the paint due to his strength and height advantage.

3 In The Paint

  1. Like Denver, this is a team that constantly bombards you with fresh players. With 10 players that average over 17 minutes, this is the perfect team for this compacted schedule. The key for the Thunder will be to constantly drive the ball inside and try to get a few of the key players in foul trouble.
  2. Don’t expect to see Kendrick Perkins a lot in this game. The Sixers are very guard-oriented and their bigs are perimeter-oriented, except for Brand.  You’ll see a lot of small ball lineups with KD playing the 4 and Ibaka/Collison playing the 5.
  3. It will be key to limit the turnovers and guard the 3 point line. The Sixers have 5 rotation players that shoot over 38% from the 3-point line. The Sixers are No.1 in the league in turnover differential. They protect the ball, while forcing you to give it up.