By John Denton
March 1, 2013

``The main thing for us is that we went out there and played a heck of a game, brought a lot of energy and battled to the end of the game,’’ Harris said. ``It just shows that as a team we’re making steps. If we can just keep building on this, it will be great for us.’’

Afflalo uncharacteristically missed three free throws and turned the ball over three times (all in the fourth quarter). Nikola Vucevic had 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Andrew Nicholson chipped in 17 points and E’Twaun Moore (nine points) had a career-best 10 assists. Orlando shot a season-best 56.4 percent for the game.

Five different Magic players turned the ball over in the fourth quarter, ruining a night when the Magic seemed poised to pull off one of their best wins in weeks.

``As far as us being young and growing up, that’s part of it in the NBA,’’ Afflalo said. ``I just think it’s a combination of us individually bettering our skills and then gaining more experience and learning how to win.’’

James Harden scored 11 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter for Houston (32-28). Carlos Delfino hit five of Houston’s 15 3-pointers, while Orlando native Chandler Parsons added 21 points. Point guard Patrick Beverly relieved Jeremy Lin and had 13 points, six assists and a go-ahead 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.

The Magic will be back on the practice court on Saturday before hosting Memphis Sunday at 6 p.m. The Grizzlies toppled the Magic 88-82 in Memphis last Friday. After that game, Orlando flies to New Orleans to face former power forward Ryan Anderson and the Hornets on Monday night.

Down just three after a high-scoring first half, Orlando remained in attack mode in the third quarter and took an 87-86 lead. The Magic kept pace with the NBA’s highest-scoring team by hitting 58.6 percent of their shots in the first three quarters. Harris hit a 3-pointer and repeatedly got to the rim to score 20 points in the first three quarters of the game.

``I think he’s fit right in rather comfortably and he hasn’t taken away from the guys who have been here,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of Harris. ``He’s just adding to our nucleus and to our core and it’s good to see him have success. It’s good to see his teammates accept him.’’

Two nights after yielding 67 in the first half to the Sacramento Kings, Orlando allowed Houston to pour in 64 in Friday’s first half. But Orlando did a much better job keeping pace this time around and trailed only 64-61 at the intermission.

The Magic were actually lucky to be in the game considering the way that Houston stroked the ball in the first half. Houston made its first five 3-pointers and hit 11 3-pointers in the first 24 minutes. In somewhat of a statistical anomaly, the Rockets shot 60 percent from the floor, 55 percent from 3-point range and only 45 percent from the free throw line.

The Magic got tremendous production from their frontline in the first half as Nicholson and Harris each poured in 13 points, while Harkless had 11 points and Vucevic scored 10 points.

Harris, who entered the game shooting 66.7 percent from the floor since joining the Magic, drilled six of his first nine shots and was aggressive attacking the rim. Harkless set a new career-high for 3-pointers in the first half alone by making three early in the game.

``I’m very confident with the 3-point shot,’’ said Harkless, who made five of seven shots and three of four 3-pointers for 13 points. ``Confidence comes from putting in the work and I’ve definitely been putting in the work. So if I have the shot I’m just going to take it.’’

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