After arguably their most impressive performance of the season against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, the Orlando Magic returned home to the Amway Center to host James Harden and the Houston Rockets. For the second straight game, the Magic played with an extremely high energy level, winning their second straight quality game, 120-113.
Playing without Tobias Harris for the third straight game wasn't an issue for the Magic early as they jumped out to a lightning quick 11-2 lead just over two minutes into the game. Like Monday night, Orlando showed a willingness to push the pace, getting into their offense quicker, resulting in better shot attempts on most possessions. The Magic are got after it on the defensive end, forcing the Rockets into six first quarter turnovers, leading to eight points for the hosts. Channing Frye, who's been mired in a shooting slump of late, got things going early, knocking down a set of three-points, while also getting a couple of other good looks that didn't go down. Frye's nine points led all scorers, with Harden's five leading the way for the Rockets.
Following another strong opening quarter, the Magic began to struggle a little bit on both ends of the floor. Houston opened the quarter on a 7-0 run to cut the Magic's lead to three. Orlando was able to weather the storm with their reserves in, only losing the lead later in the quarter due to hot shooting from the Rockets. Victor Oladipo, who went down holding his left knee after contact with Frye, finished the quarter in style, knocking down a pair of three's to go along with a layup in traffic to post a game high 18 points in the half. Patrick Beverley knocked down a pair of three's in the second quarter en route to a team high 10 points.
Out of halftime, the Magic showed some signs of energy, but also began to revert back to some tendencies that had hurt them previously. Their pace on the offensive end slowed down, forcing them to try and find consistent offense in the half court, something they have had struggles with this season. They were also unable to string together stops, with Houston scoring on what seemed to be every possession. After falling behind 75-66 midway through the quarter, Houston went on a 19-to-9 run to grab a one point lead heading into the final 12 minutes. Oladipo's 26 led all scorers, while Harden led the way for Houston with 20.
With a chance to get their second straight quality win, the Magic needed to come out in the fourth quarter with high energy. For the first few minutes, however, they were sloppy, running stagnated offense, while not getting any stops on the defensive end. When the starting back court of Oladipo and Elfrid Payton returned, however, things began to pick back up for the Magic on both ends. Their offense had better pace and they began to put better pressure on Harden and Beverley. After a monstrous dunk from Oladipo, the two sides traded buckets, with a Trevor Ariza three-pointer helping the Rockets out to a four point lead. The Magic answered, thanks to two big buckets from the rookie Payton and a wide open wing three from Frye. Houston got an easy two, but Orlando answered with an And-1 from Vucevic. With just 47.3 seconds to go, the Magic looked to be in a good position holding a five point lead.
Five Magic players finished in double figures, led by Oladipo's game high 32. Nikola Vucevic notched his 24th double-double of the season, finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Frye's five three-pointers helped him to 15, with Payton scoring 15 as well. Ben Gordon rounded out the bunch, with 12.
Houston had five players finish in double figures, led by Harden's 26. Dwight Howard scored 23, with Beverley adding 17 points. Ariza finished with 15, with Donatas Montiejunas finished with 12.