Magic fans have been hoping Serge Ibaka would start to play like he was in Oklahoma City. On Sunday night, he did.
In his first game back in the arena where he starred for the Thunder, Ibaka had his best game in a Magic uniform by far, scoring 31 points, hauling down eight rebounds and blocking four shots. His final two points came on a 9-footer with 0.4 seconds left to give the Magic a 119-117 win over the Thunder.
It was a storybook ending for Ibaka, who was part of the trade to the Magic over the summer in exchange for Victor Oladipo. Ibaka scored only two points in the fourth quarter, but they came at the right time.
The Magic have often gotten off to slow starts this season, but Sunday was not one of them. They jumped out to a 27-13 after the first period and led 57-47 at halftime.
After the Thunder rallied and took an 84-82 lead into the fourth quarter, the fireworks really began. Each team punched and counter-punched with neither team leading by more than six points.
It came down to the final possession as the Magic inbounded the ball with 11 seconds remaining. Ibaka had the ball last and made it count.
“We did that play before in the preseason and it worked for us, so (Coach Frank Vogel) asked me to do the same play, to just go and make the play,” said Ibaka. “I was ready.”
The Magic needed everything they got from Ibaka. His former teammate, Russell Westbrook, had a monster game.
He put up his third triple-double of the season, scoring 41 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out 16 assists. Oladipo had 12 against his former teammates.
While the struggles of Nikola Vucevic continued with a meager four-point effort, Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier again provided sound efforts at the guard position. Payton had 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists without a turnover. Fournier had 21.
The victory broke the Magic’s three-game losing streak and improved their record to 4-6. It was their second road win in five games.
Following the game, the Magic boarded a plane for Indianapolis where they will take on the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.