Orlando Magic 110, Houston Rockets 95

A balanced offensive attack and a 39-point outburst in the third quarter boosted the Orlando Magic to their eighth straight win, 110-95, against the Houston Rockets tonight. Brandon Bass and Jason Richardson led Orlando with 18 points apiece, but four other Magic players reached double figures as well. After a rocky start on both ends of the court, Orlando managed to assert itself to get back into the game, which they blew open in the third quarter behind Ryan Anderson's 13 points. The Magic made 16 of their 22 shots in the period, with Anderson canning all 6 of his offerings in just 6:05 on the court.

The Magic needed their complementary players to take on more responsibilities with Dwight Howard in foul trouble almost all game. Coach Stan Van Gundy shrugged off the idea Orlando won "without" Howard--he pointed out Howard played 27 minutes and put up 13 points and 11 rebounds--but the fact remains that Howard's five fouls forced him to the bench earlier than usual. Bass, Anderson, and Earl Clark--the next three big men on the depth chart--took on that challenge, with Clark in particular providing a nice lift. In 18 minutes, the second-year forward scored 8 points and 4 rebounds. "We needed those minutes from Earl," said Van Gundy.

Though Orlando managed to cruise, it got off to a slow, sloppy start. Houston scored a whopping 25 points on its first 15 trips down the floor, which helps put its mediocre overall output in perspective, as it mustered 70 points on its final 79 possessions. The Magic improved their coverage of Kevin Martin, who scored a game-high 27 points, and Luis Scola after this stretch. They ran Martin off the three-point arc and didn't let him draw too much contact, while they minimized Scola's productivity by denying him the ball and keeping him away from the basket. Scola shot 5-of-10 for 14 points, but had just 2 points and 1 rebound after the first period.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Rockets 95 100.0 44.5% 26.8 18.8 10.5
Magic 94 117.0 56.3% 13.8 25.7 17.0
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Orlando came out of halftime clearly energized and more focused, building quickly on its 53-50 edge at intermission. Shane Battier scored consecutive baskets to draw Houston to within 57-55, but Orlando scored the game's next 17 points to put the game essentially out of the Rockets' reach. Battier, with good reason, took issue with his team's play after halftime. "Our team has a tendency, when things aren't going well--when the offense isn't going well--to shut it down on the defensive end," he said. "I think that is what happened and they got a couple of easy buckets."

The Rockets' frustration during this period manifested itself in a technical foul for Kyle Lowry and a delay-of-game violation following an iffy traveling call on Martin. Houston's body language here indeed left a lot to be desired. Meanwhile, the Magic thrived, scoring exciting baskets, including a lob dunk from Hedo Turkoglu to Howard, a deep three-pointer from Richardson, and a one-handed jam by Richardson off a Nelson feed. And this all came before Anderson's eruption.

Van Gundy did have some complaints with this game, specifically with his team's poor defense against the Rockets' back cuts. "That was a major point of emphasis," he said, but Houston still mostly got what it wanted when it ran these plays.

But apart from that? Orlando got balanced scoring, shut down one of the league's top offenses, and only had one player top 30 minutes on the first night of a back-to-back set. In a larger context, it's won 8 consecutive games, one shy of the franchise record. Clearly, everything is rolling right now.

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