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Tonight's Game: Houston Rockets at Orlando Magic

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UPDATE: If you're tuning in late, you'll want to know that Hedo Turkoglu is out with the flu. Keith Bogans started in his place.

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Houston Rockets alternate logo
@
Orlando Magic 20th anniversary logo
8-5 9-3
November 22nd, 2008
Amway Arena
7:00 PM
NBA TV / Sun Sports
Probable starters:
Rafer Alston PG Jameer Nelson
Tracy McGrady SG Keith Bogans
Ron Artest SF Mickael Pietrus
Luis Scola PF Rashard Lewis
Yao Ming C Dwight Howard

The Houston Rockets are a team that's tough for me to get a read on. About all I know is that Yao Ming--assuming he plays--will eat Dwight Howard alive. In seven head-to-head meetings, Yao has held Howard to 12 points per game on 44.3% shooting. If that trend continues, the Magic will once again need some combination of their perimeter players to pick up the scoring slack.

Something to consider: although both teams played last night, the Magic needed overtime to beat the Pacers in Indianapolis whereas the Rockets needed only 48 minutes to beat the Wizards in Washington, D.C. Houston's three stars--Yao, Tracy McGrady, and Ron Artest--averaged 32 minutes in that game. In contrast, Orlando's top three players--Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu--averaged a shade under 41 minutes in their contest. Jameer Nelson had a remarkable game, scoring 22 points, but played 39 minutes and missed his last four field goal attempts. It's safe to say fatigue will be a factor in this game, and it favors the Rockets.

To get a better read on the Rockets, I asked the folks who run The Dream Shake, SB Nation's Rockets blog, to help me out. What's up in Houston? Find out in our q-and-a after the jump. And don't miss my responses to their questions at their site.

Third Quarter Collapse: Tonight's matchup will feature the two best centers in the league: Yao Ming and Dwight Howard. Given their ages and the teams for which they play, is there any chance that we might once again see this matchup in an NBA Finals game sometime in the future?

The Dream Shake: First off, I am just hoping that Yao can play against Orlando. He tweaked his previously injured foot on Monday and they may rest him another game as a precautionary device*. That said, I absolutely believe that Yao/Howard could matchup in the Finals. Lee even picked Orlando to meet (and eventually lose to) the Rockets in his preseason predictions. Yao needs to get his ring in the next 3-4 years though. We can all admit there is a smaller window of opportunity for him because history has shown that centers over 7'3" or so have always had shorter careers and eventually have severe health issues. I hope Yao can disprove this hypothesis, but I'd prefer he just get his ring now and we'll worry about the rest later!

*Ed. note: Yao, who was listed as day-to-day at the time these questions were submitted, played last night in D.C. and is good to go tonight.

Third Quarter Collapse: Tracy McGrady, one of the most reviled players in Magic history, is struggling in Houston so far*. Is there any chance he will return to playing like an All-Star?

The Dream Shake: I'm not sure why he would be reviled in Orlando. I'd blame your previous GM for being hard-headed and obtuse when it comes to Tracy. Just because T-Mac wanted a trade didn't mean you had to dump him for 20 cents on the dollar. Hakeem once demanded a trade back in 1992. The Rockets refused... drafted a couple guys named Horry and Cassell... and won a couple rings. I'm sure you remember one of those years! But back to T-Mac - I don't see him ever being the player he was in the earlier part of the decade ever again. He's morphing into more of a 18-20ppg guy who gets his teammates involved. He will never go off for 60 in a game again. That said - considering some of the SG/SFs that are allegedly "all-star" players, I am sure T-Mac can compete with them. He's still a top 10 NBA talent.

*Ed. note: McGrady shot 7-of-12 for 20 points against the Wizards. It was his most efficient offensive performance since shooting 11-of-18 for 27 points in a win at Phoenix. Since joining the Rockets in 2004, he's averaged 20.4 points per game on 34.5% shooting against the Magic.

Third Quarter Collapse: It's easy to see from your posts that you love the Luis Scola/Carl Landry tandem at power forward. What do they do that makes them so special?

The Dream Shake: I am always prone to really liking players that eschew personal statistics in favor of hustle and sacrifice. Scola and Landry epitomize that. Either guy could be starting and playing 35 minutes for the Rockets (and many other teams), but they realize that with Yao, Tracy and Artest that they will not be scoring 20 a game and/or averging 10 rebounds a game. Plus they have to share time with Chuck Hayes, who is an excellent defender and needs at least 10-15 mpg himself. Anyone who watched the Olympics this summer saw that Scola can be "the Man" if his team needs him to be. Meanwhile, Landry is just a do-everything stat stuffer who might be John Hollinger's favorite player if we base it solely on PER rankings...

Third Quarter Collapse: It's early in the season, but I'm curious to hear your evaluation of Ron Artest's play so far. How's that acquisition working?

The Dream Shake: This has to be the first time Artest is not being asked to score 20 a game *and* be the defensive stopper every single night. I think he's slowly learning that his particular role will be different for each game. Sometimes we need him to be the defensive guy who forgets about offense. Sometimes we need him to take over with the 2nd unit on the floor and be the primary offensive option. The only down part of his game so far is that he's struggling with his shot and his shot selection. But it's early. He'll come around. We still don't know how he will be used when Battier returns...... but overall I am overly excited and happy with the results of the Artest trade.

Thanks to The Dream Shake for taking the time to answer our questions. In addition to visiting their site, you can read an extensive interview with Lee (one-half of the duo) at Empty the Bench.

Tip's at 7. The last time the Rockets visited Orlando, this happened. Let's hope for a different result for the Magic tonight.

Poll

Who will win tonight's game?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    The Houston Rockets
    (5 votes)
  • 61%
    The Orlando Magic
    (8 votes)
13 votes total Vote Now