Denton: Magic vs. Thunder Analysis (2/7/14)

   

But the most important effort of the night might have come from Harkless, who played the entire fourth quarter and almost exclusively guarded Durant, the NBA’s leading candidate for the MVP award following his scorching scoring in January. Durant scored 29 points and tied a career high with 12 assists, but he missed six of seven shots in the final period with the lanky, 6-foot-9 Harkless checking him.

``I was just getting into him,’’ said Harkless, who had three assists, three rebounds and a steal in 21 minutes. ``(Durant) is a great player, so he’s going to make a couple of shots, but I just tried to make it hard for him and be into him and try not to let him get the ball so easy. I wanted to make him uncomfortable.’’

As for his game-winning assist, Harkless took some good-natured grief from his teammates after the game for refusing to put up that shot himself. But he defended himself by saying he, first, thought there was more time on the clock, and second, that Harris had a better look at the rim.

``My momentum was taking me behind the backboard and I felt like Tobias had the easier shot. I just didn’t know there was that little time and I thought we had more time, so that’s why I passed it,’’ Harkless recalled. ``It was a great feeling to come back and win a game like that against one of the best teams in the league. It’s just a great feeling.’’

About 90 minutes prior to the Magic’s showdown against Oklahoma City, Vaughn shrugged off the obvious matchups and pointed to his energetic bunch of reserves as the key to success on Friday night. During film review, Vaughn said OKC’s reserves often had broken open games and he wanted his bench players to at least play the Thunder (40-12) even.

As it turns out, Vaughn was dead-on accurate as his reserves sparked a huge fourth-quarter rally to keep the Magic in position to pull out the victory. Orlando’s bench outscored OKC’s reserves 36-23 – including a 15-2 advantage in the second half.

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