Merry Christmas, Magic fans.
Your gift? Basketball! The Orlando Magic will open the season against one of the favorites to win it all this year – the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals before they were eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in five games last season.
Tip-off from the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma is scheduled for 8:00 pm EST.
The game will be shown locally on Sun Sports and nationally on ESPN. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen on the radio – in English on AM 580 WDBO and in Spanish on AM 1270 WRLZ.
The officials for tonight’s game are Bill Kennedy, Nick Buchert and Derrick Collins.
The Line: Oklahoma City – 8.0 (197)
Oklahoma City Thunder
We know the Thunder are one of the league’s elite teams. Whether the Magic are still one is a tough question to answer. They still have Dwight Howard, so they’ll nearly always have the best player in the game. However, last season, he didn’t have nearly enough help and the Magic, aside from acquiring Glen “Big Baby” Davis, didn’t do much to change that.
The Thunder have two of the league’s best players in Kevin Durant, who’s the two-time reigning scoring champion and Russell Westbrook, who’s numbers nearly mirrored those of league MVP Derrick Rose last season.
Kendrick Perkins has always been a tough matchup for Dwight Howard. It seemed as though Howard had figured out he needed to use a little bit more finesse to attack Perkins before Perkins was dealt to the Thunder last season. That could change – Perkins has lost a noticeable amount of weight so Howard may be more inclined to go right at him.
Its going to be a tough night for Jameer Nelson on the defensive end trying to keep up with Westbrook. Nelson won’t be able to shut down Westbrook, so he’ll have to do his best to match him on the other end. Ditto for Hedo Turkoglu, who will have to take on Kevin Durant.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him onTwitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)
Tags: Dwight Howard Glen Davis Hedo Turkoglu Jameer Nelson James Harden Jason Richardson JJ Redick Kendrick Perkins Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder Orlando Magic Russell Westbrook Ryan Anderson Scott Brooks Serge Ibaka Stan Van Gundy Thabo Sefolosha