In an exciting back-and-forth affair which saw one of Orlando's best players go down in the third quarter, the Magic were unable to take down the Rockets in Houston. While Orlando pushed James Harden and co. to the brink, the Rockets were able to come out on top with a win, 119-114.
Both teams looked to push the ball early on, and that showed on the scoreboard. Orlando outscored Houston in the first period, 35-34, with a balanced attack led by nine points from Tobias Harris, eight points from Evan Fournier, and seven points from Victor Oladipo. The Magic's main issue was trying to contain Dwight Howard, who had seven points in seven minutes on 3-for-3 shooting. Behind him and a solid period from Marcus Thornton (10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, including 2-for-2 from three), Houston was able to keep it close despite Orlando shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
Houston spent the second quarter distancing itself from the Magic. The Rockets outscored Orlando by 10 points, taking the lead, 68-59 into halftime. It was another big quarter from Howard, who put up an additional six points in the frame against his original team. Harden also found his footing in the quarter, slicing and dicing the Magic for nine points in the quarter, including five of the team's final eight points over the final 1:46.
The Rockets especially imposed themselves on the glass, winning the battle on the boards, 24-13. Houston also got to the free throw line more, going 12-for-15 compared to the Magic's 6-for-7 effort from the charity stripe. Still, Orlando kept the game close due to Harris, Fournier, and Oladipo all scoring 11 points.
There was a scary moment early in the third quarter, when Nikola Vucevic went out with an injury. The big man suffered some kind of a lower leg injury while attempting to post up Howard. It was later announced that Vucevic sprained his right knee and didn't return despite being ruled as questionable. There is no word about how long he will be sidelined.
Despite this, Orlando took some of Houston's best punches in the third period and kept the game close, even going on a 9-1 run midway through the quarter to tie the game at 81. This run was mostly led by Fournier and Oladipo, as Never Google had five of the team's points during the stretch, while 'Dipo had the other four. Still, the Rockets took a 90-88 lead into the fourth, with Fournier (20 points) and Oladipo (18 points) leading all scorers.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-fourth affair, especially down the stretch. The two teams went punch for punch with one another, but in the end, we were treated to overtime. The Magic had the chance to win the game, down two with a fraction over 11 seconds remaining, and Fournier attacked the basket. He didn't convert the layup, but he was fouled by Howard and knocked down both of his free throws to tie the game at 110 and send the evening into overtime.
Orlando opened the extra frame with a possession that went nearly on for a minute, but ended up in no points. Houston came back down, got the lead on a basket by Howard, and never looked back.
The Rockers were paced by their MVP candidate, as Harden kept attacking and ended the game with 28 points, 14 of them coming via free throws. Because the universe is cruel, Howard looked like the Howard of old, going for 23 points and 14 rebounds on 10-for-10 shooting on the night.
As for Orlando, the man of the night had to be Never Google. As we've seen for most of the early portion of this season, Fournier is turning into quite the well-rounded offensive player, putting up 29 points on 11-for-19 shooting and converting three of his eight attempts from downtown. Aaron Gordon had a quiet but impressive 19 points, a career high for the second-year man, in 32 minutes. Oladipo contributed 18 points and seven rebounds, and Harris pitched in 16 points on the evening.
The loss knocked the Magic to 1-4 on the year. Orlando will look to get back on track this Friday, when the team hosts Toronto. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. EST from the Amway Center.