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Rockets 111, Magic 103: Dominant first half from Houston enough to defeat Orlando

A career night from rookie forward Maurice Harkless highlighted the night for the Magic as Houston, despite missing James Harden and Chandler Parsons, never trailed and held off a late Magic run for the victory as Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin led the way for the Rockets.

Maurice Harkless and Greg Smith
Maurice Harkless and Greg Smith

The Houston Rockets surged out of the gate to a 20-point first quarter lead, led by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, before a late Orlando Magic run put a scare into the Rockets, in the 111-103 Houston victory.

Center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin each had double-doubles for Houston, which were accomplished in the first three quarters. Asik dominated with 22 points and 18 rebounds, and Lin scored 19 points with 11 assists. Four other Rockets scored in double figures.

Rookie forward Maurice Harkless led the Magic with a career-high 28 points on 10 of 18 shooting, along with 6 rebounds. Point guard Beno Udrih, center Nik Vucevic, and forward Tobias Harris each contributed a double-double, as Udrih scored 17 points along with 10 assists, while Vucevic scored 12 points with 13 rebounds. Udrih was an efficient 6 for 10 from the field, but Vucevic struggled, shooting just 5 for 19. Forward Tobias Harris scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, along with 11 rebounds and 3 blocks, but shot just 6 for 17.

Before the Magic knew what hit them, they trailed in the opening quarter 21-6 as Houston made nine shots in a row after missing three of their first four shots. Asik scored eight points during the Rockets' run, and finished the quarter with ten points and five rebounds. The Rockets shot 58 percent and enjoyed a 18-6 rebound advantage while turning the ball over just once in the first quarter, while the Magic shot a frigid 26 percent, as Houston led 32-14.

Orlando managed to trim a little off their deficit in the second quarter, as they closed to within eleven points on several occasions, the last time at 45-34 after a Vucevic hook shot with just over five minutes remaining. Houston then surged ahead as they made four 3-point field goals in the midst of a 20-7 run in the next 4:30 to take command of the game 65-41, and led at the half 65-43. Asik led the way for Houston, scoring 14 points with 12 boards. Maurice Harkless led the Magic with 17 points.

Houston took their largest lead of the game 70-45 after a Francisco Garcia 3-pointer 1:35 into the second half. Orlando then attempted to get back into the game going on a 17-4 run, capped by a Harkless 3-pointer with 6:18 remaining, to cut the Magic deficit to 74-62. Lin and Asik then went to work for the Rockets, as Asik had two dunks from passes by Lin, and Lin made a 3-pointer along with two layups, one of which was assisted by Asik, to up the Rockets' lead to 85-66. Houston had a comfortable 90-74 lead going into the final quarter, as Lin and Asik combined for 18 of the Rockets' 25 points in the third.

Houston coach Kevin McHale was so confident the Rockets would win, he sat Asik and Lin for the entire fourth quarter. It didn't seem like it would matter, as Houston led by as much as 98-78 with 9:26 remaining after a Thomas Robinson jumper. Trailing by 104-87 with 5:30 remaining, Orlando managed to put a scare into the Rockets, going on a 14-2 run as Udrih made two 3-pointers to cut the lead to 106-101 with 2:05 remaining. A James Anderson tip-in put the Rockets back up by seven, but a Harris layup put the Magic back within five points with 1:33 remaining. After a missed 3-pointer by the Rockets, the Magic had three chances to cut the Rockets' lead to three points, but Vucevic failed to convert on all three attempts. Carlos Delfino then made three free throws to account for the eight-point Houston margin of victory.

It was a very curious decision by McHale not to put either Asik or Lin back in the game in the fourth quarter as the Magic were making their run, as Houston shot just 8 of 27 (29.6%) in the final quarter as the Magic were making their comeback.

Houston outshot Orlando 45 percent to 42 percent from the field and had a 54-48 rebound advantage, including grabbing 20 offensive boards, for an impressive 37 percent offensive rebound rate. Excellent free throw shooting by the Magic, as they converted 19 of 21 attempts (90.5%) from the charity stripe.

Rookies Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn were both impressive off the bench, as both played 12 minutes, each scoring ten points on combined 9 of 13 shooting, along with a combined 12 rebounds.

Orlando remains 1 1/2 games ahead of Charlotte for the worst record in the NBA, and continue their five-game road trip on Wednesday night in San Antonio.