The James Harden tour continued in Orlando Friday night, and it was (another) rock show for the seven-time All-Star. Harden hit the 50-point mark for the fifth time this season (fourth time in the last seven contests) as the Rockets piled on the Magic, 130-107.
Harden (19-31 FGA’s) made ten three-point field goals in the game, which tied an all-time Magic franchise opponent record for three-point field goals in a single contest (Stephen Curry on 2/25/16, Damian Lillard on 11/28/18).
The 130 points Orlando gave up Friday night to Houston is an opponent season-high mark that eclipsed the previous high of 123 points set November 1st by the Milwaukee Bucks. The Rockets shot 56 percent from the field and 56 percent from behind the three-point line.
Orlando starting point guard Markelle Fultz returned to the Magic lineup after missing Wednesday’s game with a stomach virus. His presence was immediately felt at the beginning of the game, knocking down Orlando’s first three-point field goal from the top of the key, grabbing rebounds while pushing the pace in the other direction, and dishing out three assists within the first five minutes of the game.
Russell Westbrook, who has enjoyed some absolutely monstrous games at the Amway Center in years past, started to impose his will towards the end of the first quarter. On two separate occasions, Houston’s all-star point guard out-hustled all five Magic defenders down the floor, going coast-to-coast and violently throwing down a couple thunderous dunks.
Orlando opened the second quarter on a 6-0 run to even the score in the game, but Houston immediately answered with a 10-0 run of their own to reclaim the lead (again, led primarily by Westbrook).
Evan Fournier did everything he possibly could to keep the Magic on pace with the Rockets, scoring 14 of his 27 points in the second quarter. Fournier hit four three-point field goals in the period (4-5 3PTA’s in the second quarter).
But the second quarter quickly turned into the Harden show. The former NBA Most Valuable Player caught fire in the first half, scoring 25 points in just under 18 minutes (18 second quarter points, 4-5 three-point field goals in the period). Harden just kept backing-up, and backing-up again - hitting the Magic a couple times with his patented step-back jumper.
The Magic were fortunate enough to connect on nine three-point field goals in the first half (9-21 3PTA’s, 43%), but that wasn’t enough to keep up with the sharp-shooting Rockets (11-19 3PTA’s in the first half, 58%).
Both teams kept their foot on the gas pedal in the third quarter - scoring was not a problem. Neither club found a whole lot of success getting defensive stops as Houston and Orlando combined to convert 16 of the first 25 field goal attempts in the period.
Fournier is having a night. pic.twitter.com/5lV7xgpTxG— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) December 14, 2019
Houston’s absurd shooting from long-range continued in the third quarter. The Magic started double-teaming Harden as soon as he got the ball, and to the Rockets’ credit, their supporting cast proved to be worthy. Houston buried seven of their ten three-point attempts in the period (including a couple daggers from Ben McLemore), pushing their lead to 18 points heading into the fourth quarter.
All-in-all, the Rockets made 22 three-point field goals Friday night, which set an all-time franchise record by an Orlando opponent (22-39 3PTA’s, 56%).
Westbrook finished with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists (9-18 FGA’s). Houston also received a huge boost off their bench from McLemore, who scored 18 points in 27 minutes (6-7 3PTA’s).
After his quick start, Fultz was (unfortunately) rather quiet for the rest of the game, scoring five points in 21 minutes (2-8 FGA’s).
Aaron Gordon scored 21 points (9-15 FGA’s) and grabbed 6 rebounds for Orlando.
Fournier finished with 27 points (10-18 FGA’s, 6-11 3PTA’s) to lead the Magic. Orlando’s starting shooting guard has scored 20 or more points in eight of the twelve games the Magic have played without Nikola Vucevic.
Vucevic has been a participant in Orlando’s previous two pre-game “shoot-arounds”. His return is expected to happen fairly soon.
The Magic now hit the road for four games over the next ten days, starting with a Sunday afternoon tilt against the New Orleans Pelicans. Tip-off is set for 3:30 PM EST.