Orlando Magic 118, Houston Rockets 104

For the second straight night, the Orlando Magic's offense proved too much for its opponent to handle, as they dealt the Houston Rockets a 118-104 defeat Saturday evening behind 13 three-point baskets, 22 points from Dwight Howard, and seven players in double-digit scoring. Orlando shot 60 percent and scored 100 points through the first 36 minutes before dialing down the intensity in the fourth quarter, allowing the final score to look more respectable than it ought to have been. But Houston, which ranks among the league's weakest defensive teams, could not take anything away from Orlando's offense. Howard mostly had his way inside, though Chuck Hayes did give him fits on some possessions, including a nicely timed rejection of a Howard hook which lead to a Kevin Martin fast-break layup.

Meanwhile, if they couldn't get the ball to Howard, they at least managed to get decent perimeter shots away, particularly from three-point range. Hedo Turkoglu scored a season-high 21 points for Orlando to go with 5 assists, which constantly put pressure on Houston's defense. Jason Richardson added 18 points and a game-high four three-pointers for the Magic.

Houston got 19 points from reserve forward Chase Budinger, who showed off his myriad scoring skills, but struggled to get Kevin Martin or Luis Scola involved. Martin scored 18 points on just 5-of-18 shooting, while Scola scored 10 of his 15 points in the third quarter after a first half in which Orlando double-teamed him hard on his post catches, encouraging him to give the ball up.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 91 130.3 60.3% 14.9 28.2 11.0
Rockets 94 110.5 43.2% 23.2 35.2 11.7
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

The Magic have too many offensive options for a defense like Houston's to adequately account for, and with the ball moving the way it did for most of the game, the Rockets didn't stand much of a chance. Some of that is just good luck on Orlando's part, as it made its first five three-point tries on the night. Though the threes stopped dropping so impressively as the game wore on, the Magic continued to build their lead with a bevy of easy scores, particularly with tip-ins and fast breaks. I don't want to say Houston dogged it defensively tonight--it worked hard, to these eyes--but it's clear it simply doesn't have the personnel to take the Magic off their game.

Credit again goes to the Magic's ballhandling trio of Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, and Gilbert Arenas, who tallied 5, 9, and 5 assists, respectively. All three picked their spots well and made good decisions with the ball. Arenas played with as much energy as I've seen from him since joining the Magic. More impressively, he limited himself to just 5 shot attempts in 20 minutes.

"Energy" has become a big word for the Magic, who've lacked it at times, especially at the starts of games, since their roster overhaul last month. Tonight, however, they showed good energy from the start, which contributed to their jumping on top early and building that lead throughout the first three periods.

My guess is coach Stan Van Gundy's biggest complaints about his team tonight--and I haven't read any of his quotes yet, I promise--will pertain to playing the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and failing to keep the Rockets off the offensive boards. Houston grabbed 35.2 percent of its own misses, an elite figure. Orlando, thanks to Howard's work in that area, ranks as the league's best defensive rebounding team, so there's really no reason why an undersized Rockets squad should have dominated that end. I recognize that plenty of Houston's shots bounced out long, but allowing Hayes (5 offensive boards) and Jordan Hill (4) to rebound like that is unacceptable.

Again, don't be fooled by the final score: the Magic led, 100-76, after three periods and looked dominant at both ends of the court. Had they kept the pressure on, they may have picked up another 30-point win after defeating the Raptors by 40 on Friday night. But they affixed a postage stamp to the final frame and coasted, which can't please Van Gundy. Overall, though, Orlando had the privilege of resting Howard for fourth quarters on consecutive nights. As Van Gundy's expressed concern about Howard's minutes lately, that much is encouraging.>

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