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Rockets 116, Magic 98: Rockets’ role players feast as Magic stay ice cold

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Harden was injured and Paul struggled, but the Magic couldn’t capitalize.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If someone were to write a preview of how the Houston Rockets would beat the Orlando Magic, it would have to be in a flurry of three-pointers and forcing turnovers led by All-NBA point guard Chris Paul. In reality, it was a rout led by role players and the Magic failing to create and make open looks.

“I thought we had a lot of good possessions early on that we didn’t make a shot,” said Magic coach Frank Vogel, “you know either at the rim or the three-point line.”

The Rockets took the floor without their MVP candidate, James Harden, who will be out at least two weeks with a hamstring strain, but were still led by his backcourt mate in future Hall of Famer Chris Paul. Paul struggled from the field, however, to the tune of 3-of-13 from the floor for eight points.

The real star of the show was Rockets’ wing Gerald Green, who has only been on the roster since December 28. The veteran swingman scored a game-high 27 points, burying seven three-pointers and grabbing six rebounds. Just like Tyler Johnson in their last home game, the Magic were unable to contain a scoring guard when it counted. Rockets center Clint Capela dominated his matchup throughout the night, be it Bismack Biyombo, Marreese Speights, or even Aaron Gordon, racking up 21 points and eight boards.

To say there was one thing that swung this game would be a bit disingenuous, however. The Magic were down 20 for most of the game after getting outscored 25-12 in the first quarter, and the closest it ever got was when Orlando trailed 3-2 shortly after the tip.

Magic starters Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier had an unusually rough night, shooting a combined 9-of-34. Gordon missed his first eight shots but kept chugging along for a game-high 23 shot attempts.

As a team, the Magic finished shooting 38 percent from the floor and 16 percent from downtown. They missed their first 11 three-pointers and allowed Houston to shoot 47 percent from the floor.

“Sometimes the shots aren’t going to fall,” said Gordon, “we got the looks we wanted to get but they didn’t fall. It happens. Just keep shooting.”

The Magic (12-27) won’t get much of a break when it comes to talented team, as their next matchup will be a home date with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (25-12) on Saturday.