Playing in their final game before embarking on a six-game, 11-day road trip, the Orlando Magic welcomed the Houston Rockets to the Amway Center. Despite leading by double digits in the first half, the Rockets offense was too much late, topping the Magic 100-93 in Orlando.
After a lackluster performance on Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, the Magic came out with good energy on both ends of the floor, especially defensively. With the Rockets high powered nature offensively, the Magic went with some slightly unconventional matchups defensively, with Aaron Gordon guarding James Harden and Evan Fournier on Ryan Anderson. With the length, athletic Gordon on him, Harden had a quiet first quarter, making just two highly contested step-back jumpers, and looking frustrated on other possessions. After one, the Magic had held the Rockets to 35 percent shooting, including 3-of-13 from deep, helping them to a three point lead, 22-19 after one.
Turning to their reserves, things went downhill quickly for the Magic, who were continuously getting beat on the offensive glass on what seemed like every possession. As the Rockets continued to play small, the Magic went big, giving the Rockets speed advantages at multiple positions. With the offense struggling, D.J. Agustin took over, scoring 16 of the Magic’s 30 second quarter points, single handedly keeping them in the game. Thanks to Augustin’s big quarter, and the Rockets continuing to miss shots — they shot 6-of-26 from three in the first half — the Magic still found themselves up by eight, 52-44 at half.
Directly out of halftime, the Magic were yet again flat, allowing the Rockets to open the half on a 12-1 run to storm back and take a three point lead. After Augustin was reinserted, the Magic settled in more, with Gordon continuing his extremely high level of play on both ends of the floor. Gordon continued to lock down Harden on the defensive end, holding the MVP candidate to just one point in the quarter, and nine through three. The Rockets began hitting their three’s, knocking down seven in the quarter to take a four point lead, 79-75, into the fourth quarter.
With their big unit getting thrashed in the second quarter, Frank Vogel elected to go with a smaller lineup to matchup with the Rockets. Houston’s offense continued to find it’s groove, holding the lead around the five to seven point mark for much of the quarter. Despite continuing to play stifling defense on Harden, the Magic’s offense sputtered out, allowing the Rockets to hold the lead and notch the victory.
Ryan Anderson led the way for the Rockets with 19 on the night. Patrick Beverley and Eric Gordon each added 17. Harden finished the night with his second lowest point total for the season, 14, but added 10 assists and seven rebounds. Trevor Ariza also finished with 13 for the victors.
Augustin did the most damage for the Magic, finishing with 19 on the night. Gordon capped off one of, if not his best game as a pro with 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Serge Ibaka added 16, with Elfrid Payton finishing with 12. Evan Fournier struggled with his shot, scoring 10 on the night.