Behind hot shooting and a vintage performance from Hedo Turkoglu, the Orlando Magic defeated the Houston Rockets on Monday night by a final score of 104-95, picking up their first victory of the season. Turkoglu scored 13 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth period, recalling his 2007/08 season in which he earned the "Mister Fourth Quarter" nickname and Most Improved Player honors. Dwight Howard contributed 21 points and seven rebounds, while J.J. Redick came off the bench with his second consecutive strong performance, shooting 8-of-12 for 20 points.
Houston hung around until the final few minutes of the game despite a poor showing from starting two-guard Kevin Martin. In 33 minutes, Martin shot 1-of-10 from the floor and, almost as surprisingly, drew just two free-throw attempts, finishing with a miserable four points. But Houston got offense from other sources, with five Rockets finishing in double-figure scoring. Kyle Lowry knifed his way through Orlando's defense for 20 points (9-of-10 from the foul line), and former Magic guard Courtney Lee added 15 off the bench.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's 2010/11 average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's 2010/11 average.
A coaching decision from Stan Van Gundy made Turkoglu's fourth-quarter performance possible. Van Gundy shifted the veteran to power forward, with Jason Richardson at small forward, Redick at shooting guard, and Jameer Nelson at point guard. Van Gundy didn't leave Rockets coach Kevin McHale much of a choice: he could either stick with a slow, big lineup with Luis Scola at the four and Sam Dalembert at the five or go small with Scola at center. McHale chose the latter--better to have Scola guard Howard inside than Turkoglu on the wing--and removed Dalembert, who played a strong game at both ends of the floor off Houston's bench.
Behind Howard, Orlando got off to a strong start. He punished Scola and Dalembert inside early, establishing great low-post position and finishing his opportunities at the rim. He led Orlando with 10 first-period points on 5-of-6 shooting. Tonight's game demonstrates how the Magic are designed to work: they get Howard going early to scramble opposing defenses, and then the perimeter players can get theirs. Turkoglu, Redick, and Richardson (10 points on 5-of-8 shooting) filled those roles tonight. Nobody expects Turkoglu to shoot 8-of-12 every night, of course, but if he keeps playing the way he did tonight--penetrating, facilitating the offense, engaged--then the Magic will be in better shape than many folks expected this season.
The game also offered a preview of what Van Gundy's rotation might look like in the early season. Only eight players logged more than 10 minutes, with shooting guard Von Wafer and rookie power forward Justin Harper getting spot minutes. Thus, Orlando's top reserves are Redick, Glen Davis (13 points on 11 shots Monday evening), and Chris Duhon. Though Duhon mostly acquitted himself in this game, he's become the object of much derision among Magic fans, who booed him whenever he entered the game.
Another key to holding off the Rockets in the second half: limiting Scola's effectiveness on offense. The Argentinian scored only four points on 2-of-9 shooting after intermission after tearing Orlando up with 15 points in 20 first-half minutes. Had he maintained that performance into the second half, Orlando may not have managed to pull off this win.
The Magic return to action Thursday night when they host the New Jersey Nets.