Denton: Magic at Rockets Analysis (12/8/13)

   

The Magic couldn’t keep pace with Houston (15-7) after it ripped off a 17-0 run early in the first quarter of the game. The Rockets led by 14 at the half and by 22 after three periods, before the Magic came charging back. But they simply couldn’t overcome the shooting woes from the first three quarters when they failed to crack 40 percent from the floor.

``We’re not here for moral victories; we’re here to win the game,’’ Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. ``We didn’t bring it in certain spurts of the game and in certain quarters and with certain lineups. We don’t have the type of team that can turn the switch on and off. We have to play consistent in terms of our effort and our approach to the game. We can’t come out and get a lead and get complacent and relax.’’

Howard, who was celebrating his 28th birthday, probably doesn’t even recognize the Magic considering that there were only two players on the floor on Sunday – Nelson and Davis – who he played with in Orlando from 2004 to 2012. Howard, who left the Los Angeles Lakers to sign a free-agent deal with the Rockets in July, topped his season average of 16.8 points per game by scoring 20 points and he also grabbed 22 rebounds. He was mostly ineffective in the post all game, but the 55.9 percent free throw shooter did make eight free throws in 14 tries.

Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn resisted the temptation of using the Hack-A-Howard strategy after Orlando got to within 10 points of the Rockets. He did that last season when Howard came back to Orlando with the Lakers and the center made 25 of a NBA-record-tying 39 free throw attempts. Vaughn was proud of his team for showing the resiliency of staying in the game and making a fourth-quarter run at the Rockets.

``That (poor shooting) can be frustrating at times, but I appreciate the way we tried to push at it and go at it. We had some good looks around the rim early in the game, but the ball just didn’t go in for us,’’ Vaughn said. ``There were different moments in a game when a team can override your soul a little bit. But we had great resolve tonight and kept fighting. Every guy that stepped out there on the floor tonight gave us something.’’

Orlando’s most consistent threat all season, guard Arron Afflalo, struggled most of the night to get clean looks against James Harden. He finished with a fourth-quarter flurry for 16 points, but he missed six of his first nine shots.

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