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Thunder: Previewing OKC's Sunday Matchup With Orlando

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Thunder fans are in store for the second Sunset Sunday of the season as OKC hosts the Orlando Magic at 6 p.m. Here are a few things to know about the matchup:

The Return of Serge

Longtime Thunder shot blocker Serge Ibaka will play in OKC for the first time on Sunday since he was traded on draft night in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to Domantas Sabonis.

It was a surprising move by the Thunder, seeing Ibaka was one of the franchise’s mainstays, but clearly Sam Presti felt it was time to get younger. Acquiring Oladipo gave the Thunder a scoring wing while Sabonis is one of the more promising players in this last year’s draft.

Ibaka is still getting acclimated to his new team and is averaging 12.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and just over one block per game.

While losing Ibaka isn’t in the same category as losing Kevin Durant, Thunder fans will likely give Ibaka a standing ovation when he’s announced pregame.

Also worth noting: former Thunder point guard D.J. Augustin and forward Jeff Green also play for the Magic, so look for Sunday to be a reunion of sorts.

Magic struggling a bit

While there were higher expectations for this season than in years past, the Orlando Magic have stumbled out of the gates and have a 3-6 record through the first nine games.

Under new head coach Frank Vogel the Magic stress tough defense with newly acquired shot blockers such as Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo, but right now Orlando is allowing opponents to score and average of 102.4 points per game which ranks 13th in the NBA.

While so much attention has been focused on defense, the Magic are averaging a league-low in points scored per game with a shockingly low 92.3 point per game average. That number is nearly four whole points less than the Miami Heat, who rank second to last.

To shake things up a bit, Coach Vogel opted to shift Green into the starting lineup while moving athletic forward Aaron Gordon to a bench role. The plan has failed to work so far, seeing the Magic only scored 74 points in Friday night’s loss to the Jazz.

With a roster made up of mostly defensive specialists, the Magic will need to find ways to put up more points on a nightly basis or the losses could continue to pile up.

Thunder Riding Two-game Skid

OKC began the season with a 4-0 start, but the Thunder has now lost each of its last two games to the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers.

While both teams are considered one of the elite in their respective conferences, the Thunder still had opportunities to win both games but late games woes ultimately proved to be costly.

With a favorable matchup and an angry Russell Westbrook, look for the Thunder to get back on track against the Magic on Sunday evening. 

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