Orlando Magic 110, Houston Rockets 92

The Orlando Magic's trio of Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Vince Carter proved to be too much for the Houston Rockets to handle tonight as Orlando held off an impressive second-half rally to win big, 110-92. Howard posted game-highs with 30 points and 16 boards, and in so doing tallied his 19th consecutive double-double, a new franchise record. Howard also shot 11-of-11 from the floor, setting a Magic record for most field goals made without a miss. Nelson and Carter, meanwhile, scored 33 points on 24 shots, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished 16 assists, and committed just 2 turnovers. They also scored 5 points apiece in a 10-0 Magic run in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, boosting Orlando's lead to 17 points and putting the game out of Houston's reach. The Rockets hung around with timely three-point shooting, making 12 of their 24 attempts from long-range, but connected on 39.6% of their two-pointers and committed 15 turnovers, undermining their comeback effort.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 90 122.3 54.6% 17.2 30.0 10.0
Rockets 88 104.9 50.6% 18.2 20.9 17.1
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Houston had 2 days off to prepare for this game and integrate new acquisition Kevin Martin into their system, so their lack of energy and interest in the first half puzzled me. This is a team that, by all accounts, has played very hard without franchise center Yao Ming, who's out for the year with a foot injury. But tonight, the Rockets didn't execute their offense--not in the first half, anyway--and got caught out-of position on defense. And it had a prime opportunity to exploit the Magic, who lost Howard 22 seconds into the first quarter due to two quick fouls. Instead, Marcin Gortat played effectively on both ends of the floor.

And when Howard returned, he was tremendous, sinking 5 shots and grabbing 5 boards in his first 6 minutes on the court. The Rockets couldn't stop him, and the Magic looked for him intently on every possession. Monstrous, he was, and Orlando needed every bit of his offense with its three-pointers not dropping.

Rockets coach Rick Adelman picked up on Orlando's inaccuracy from long-range, and in the second half ordered his team to send an extra defender at Howard, gambling that the Magic's shooters would continue to miss their three-pointers. As a result, Howard spent most of the second half on offense dribbling backward with two defenders in his face, looking for the open man. The ball swung around and found an open shooter more often than not, but Adelman guessed right: the treys continued to clank off the iron, and Houston covered a lot of ground.

It helped that Martin awoke in the third quarter, driving aggressively to the hoop and drawing fouls after an essentially invisible first half. Adelman also neutralized Howard's defensive advantage at the basket by playing floor-spreading backup center David Andersen, who sank 2 three-pointers and opened up driving lanes for Aaron Brooks, Martin, and others.

A solid win for Orlando, which--thanks to Howard's work inside--bested it season average in effective field goal percentage despite missing 22 of its 31 three-point tries.

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