OKLAHOMA CITY — The Thunder beat Orlando on Monday because of their point guard.
Here’s a new one: the point guard was Raymond Felton.
"He just did a really good job," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "I thought he was really balanced between himself and the other guys."
Felton played just under 13 minutes during the 112-105 victory over the Magic. They were valuable enough to make the difference.
He scored 13 points and assisted on four baskets. Most importantly, he pulled OKC through a near three-quarter-long lull to victory over a Magic squad that has spent the last few weeks and will spend the rest of the season tanking for the No. 1 pick.
He helped the Thunder to a 9-0 run to end the third, turning a 77-75 deficit into a seven-point lead to end the period.
Forward Jerami Grant drained a couple of free throws. Paul George, who finished with 26 points and was the only starter on the floor during the run, found rookie wing Terrance Ferguson on a rainbow pass downcourt for a transition dunk. Power forward Patrick Patterson swung to Felton for a 3 on OKC’s springiest possession of the game, a play that included three passes in only a couple of seconds. The quarter capped with a putback from George.
Oklahoma City never trailed again after that.
“We brought energy. We played fast. We played downhill,” George said.
Felton, of course, led the way. And this wasn’t the first game he’s gotten hot off the bench to help OKC to a victory.
He had an 8-0 run by himself during the Thunder’s return game from the All-Star break in Sacramento.
“It was definitely a great break for myself,” Felton said. “I got a chance to get away, relax.”
He was the catalyst for the 9-0 sprint Monday, when he had help from others, too.
The Thunder bench has struggled — and not just in late. Simply, in general. But that wasn't the case against Orlando.
Four reserves (Felton, Patterson, Grant and Alex Abrines) scored in double-digits. Felton, Grant and Patterson were all plus-12s.
Abrines was a plus-eight. He had moments when he looked like he could end up a convicted for stealing the talent of injured Thunder shooting guard Andre Roberson for the night, most notably when he climbed a step ladder to deny a potential block from high-flying Magic wing Mario Hezonja. He finished a two-handed alley-oop moments later.
“It feels good,” Abrines said. “My legs feel pretty good after the All-Star break. The rest was good for my legs, for my body.”
The night of oddities included Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony combining for only 17 points on 7 of 27 shooting, making Monday. It included Westbrook, who added 12 points and 11 assists, falling short of a triple-double because he didn’t have enough points for the first time in his career. Monday's was the third consecutive game he has shot worse than 30 percent from the field, as well.
The starters needed the help. And on a night when they were going against a hapless Magic team, during a week when the Thunder must rack up wins considering just as struggling Dallas and Phoenix are on deck, they needed it.
"With the way the game was going in that third quarter, that second unit came in there [and] I thought those guys really raised our level of play," Donovan said. "[They] gave us a good cushion."
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as the host of the postgame show, Thunder After Dark, and the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.