NBA Thursday Night: Oklahoma City Thunder at Orlando Magic

The Oklahoma City Thunder (28-7, 13-6 away) travel to take on the Orlando Magic (23-13, 12-6 home) in an exciting match-up between top NBA teams, with tip-off at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida taking place at 8:00 PM ET. With both teams coming off wins to start the second-half of the NBA campaign, and riding solid recent form, this will no doubt make for a fantastic online sports betting opportunity on a relatively slow night of NBA basketball.

Although the Oklahoma City Thunder has continued to be one of the best teams in the NBA by virtue of leading the league with the best record overall and on the road, not to mention a current six-game winning streak coming into tonight’s clash with the Magic, the Thunder have a big accomplishment set in their sights ahead of tip-off in Orlando; winning for the first time at Amway Center since the team moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City. In fact, for the franchise as a whole, the team has not won at Orlando since 2004, one of the longest running losing streaks on the road in the NBA. Orlando’s stingy defense has been a big reason for the Thunder’s woes during that stretch, as star forward Kevin Durant (27.7 points/game, 7.9 rebounds/game) has been held to just 15.3 points per contest during his last 4 visits to Orlando (3 with OKC, 1 with Seattle). Coincidentally, Durant’s poor points total in these games, nearly half of his career production of 26.1 points/game, is exactly the same margin of defeat that the Thunder have experienced in their 3 visits there since becoming a franchise in 2008. Against a Magic team this year that is allowing just 90.9 points to opposing offenses (4th in the NBA), the Thunder’s key task will be finding a way to keep up the blistering scoring pace they’ve maintained during their six-game hot streak, averaging an impressive 107.6 points per contest.

As a lot of pressure will be on OKC’s Kevin Durant to have a big road game tonight, a big match-up to watch for will lie between Durant and Orlando’s shooting forward Hedo Turkoglu (11.4 ppg, 4.5 apg), as the two will likely be squared off against each other for most of the evening. There’s no question that in the first meeting, in the first game of the season between these two teams, Durant got the upper hand at home scoring 30 points on 11-19 shooting, adding 6 rebounds and 5 assists in a 97-89 win for the Thunder back in December. As Durant continues to be the life-blood of the Thunder offense, shooting %51 from the floor on the season, this game should ebb and flow with his success or lack thereof, and it will be interesting to see how Orlando takes him into account on defense. While the Magic obviously must do better to contain Durant than they did in the first meeting of the season, if Orlando pushes too much coverage against Durant, Russell Westbrook (23.5 ppg, 5.5 apg) should find himself freed up more frequently, and able to dish to ball around to other open targets like James Harden (16.8 ppg) who has been playing consistently well over his last 3 games, as well as power forward Serge Ibaka (8.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg), who has produced a pair of double-doubles in the past 4 games. Oklahoma, while needing Durant to be his exceptional self tonight, also need their supporting cast to step up in case Orlando’s swarming defense at home proves to be once again frustrating for their star forward away from home.

Orlando on the other hand, while being a primarily focused on their defensive efforts, must put more emphasis on their offense tonight against a high-scoring Thunder team that has improved their own defense as of late. In the first meeting between these two teams, Dwight Howard (19.9 ppg, 15.2 rpg) had a tough time dealing with Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed, who held the Magic’s big man to 11 points on just 4-12 shooting. While Howard was still a force on the boards, pulling down 15 in that game, and both Perkins and Mohammed were ineffective with the ball against him, the fact that Howard was unable to be the center of the Orlando scoring attack left the job up to Ryan Anderson (16.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Jameer Nelson (9.4 ppg, 5.2 apg), who while both playing well that night (25 and 18 points respectively) couldn’t overcome the Thunder’s more balanced attack led by Durant. What Orlando then would like to see tonight is a repeat of Howard’s last performance against OKC at home, in which he went off for 40 points and 15 rebounds. Though expectations of a game like that should be curtailed considering that Howard’s recent scoring form has been down in the past few games, getting north of 20 points and closer to 15 rebounds out of Howard would most assuredly give the Magic a solid bottom line at home.

Betting Lines for the Orlando Magic vs. Oklahoma City Thunder at Intertops Sportsbook

In this big match-up between top NBA teams, make sure to check out all the best sportsbook odds for tonight’s game in order to find the best wagering choices for your style of betting. For tonight’s match-up, I’m going with our featured sportsbook of the day at Intertops, which places the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder at -120 odds to win straight up on the money line. In a good match-up between two teams trending in the right direction, Orlando pickers will find the Magic as +100 underdogs in tonight’s game.

Against the Spread, once again it’s a tight proposition with OKC being just a 1 point favorite to win, and Orlando getting only 1 point to play with for spread pickers. However, with the Thunder at -120 against the money line tonight, and -1 points at -110 odds against the spread, OKC pickers may want to go at the spread for the best money, while Orlando pickers would be better off taking the straight up bet.

For the over/under on tonight’s game, the line stands at 193 points. The first game of the season produced 186 points between these two teams, which could bare repeating considering that the Thunder have been playing above average defense of late (holding LA and Philly to under 88 points), and Orlando plays at its most lock-down level while at home (keeping its last 5 opponents to an 87.8 points/game average). Expect a slower pace and more focus on defense to keep the scoring low once again tonight.

Our Pick to Win:

Admittedly, I’ve been getting burned picking road teams who come into match-ups as the favorites in the past couple of days, even though I must say that each of those games has involved college teams, where home court advantage has played a much more significant part than in the NBA. So casting those recent troubles aside, I like the Oklahoma City Thunder to be in good position to grab their franchise’s first win at Orlando, especially due to the fact that OKC has been scoring out of control lately, while at the same time performing much better on defense. One thing of concern still has to be OKC’s protection of the ball, as they rank last in the NBA in turnovers. If Orlando is able to generate a lot of fast break possessions on steals or poor Thunder passing, the Magic could turn the tables on OKC. However, I still think this is the Thunder’s game to lose, as they’re playing at a top level on the road, riding a 6-game winning streak, and coming off wins against the Celtics, Lakers and 76ers, all top teams. A much better performance tonight from Kevin Durant brings it home for Oklahoma City, as they prevail 98-90.

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