The Orlando Magic conclude a three-game homestand this evening when they host the shorthanded, yet potent, Houston Rockets. Without franchise center Yao Ming and low-post defensive specialist Chuck Hayes, the Rockets will be hard pressed to contain Dwight Howard, who shot 11-for-11 for 30 points against Houston in one game last season. As usual, he'll get plenty of touches tonight, perhaps even more than usual, given the Rockets' depleted frontline. Brad Miller and Luis Scola lack the requisite speed to handle Howard inside, while Jordan Hill doesn't have the strength. I'd expect Houston to send multiple double-teams at Howard, varying its timing and coverage so as to keep him guessing.
Of course, how Orlando defends the Rockets is just as important. Despite having Yao, once one of the league's top offensive players, in the lineup for all of 91 minutes this year, Houston owns the league's seventh-most efficient offense. Coach Rick Adelman is renowned for his work on that end, and with good reason. Kevin Martin's the real key here. The veteran shooting guard is making a case for his first All-Star appearance with his efficient, no-nonsense scoring. Because he exploits the most effective ways to score--the free throw and the three-pointer--he averages 23.2 points on just 14.9 field-goal attempts. Containing him is the Magic's first priority.
Scola's not chopped liver either, scoring 19.3 points, but with Howard available to guard him, he's less of a concern.
One component of Houston that makes it a tough out despite its 16-19 record is its depth. ESPN's John Hollinger, in introducing his new "bench rating" metric, writes, "one can make a strong argument that Houston employs the league's top subs." Brad Miller, Courtney Lee, and Chase Budinger are talented enough to start for plenty of teams.
Coach Stan Van Gundy has lamented his team's inconsistent play in its last two games; the Magic have essentially played two good halves and two poor ones in this homestand. The Magic can't take any possessions off against this Rockets team.
|2010/2011 NBA Season
|16-19 (6-13 road)
|23-12 (14-5 home)
|January 7th, 2011
|Sun Sports / ESPN
|2010/11 Advanced Stats