By John Denton
April 1, 2013

HOUSTON -- Overwhelmed at the start and extinguished every time they tried to make a run at the high-octane Houston Rockets – even in the fourth quarter when they furiously attempted to erase a 25-point deficit – the Orlando Magic never gave themselves much of a chance on Monday night.

Blossoming rookie forward Maurice Harkless did his best all night to keep the Magic within striking distance, coming within two points of becoming the youngest player in franchise history to score 30 points in a game. But Harkless was mostly helpless to get the Magic over the hump late in the night because of Orlando’s inability to defend the paint early on.

Houston didn’t have its top two scorers, but still rode massive nights from center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin and held off a late Magic push to beat Orlando 111-103 at the Toyota Center.

As a testament to the strong character of Orlando’s core of promising young players, Orlando kept clawing throughout the fourth quarter. A Magic team that never led and trailed by as much as 25 points was shockingly within 108-103 with 60 seconds to play. But they could get no closer, leaving Orlando to wonder what could have been had it not dug such a deep hole early in the game.

``When they make their run, we’ve got to go back at them. They basically just dominated us in the beginning,’’ said Magic forward Tobias Harris, who had his troubles inside with Greg Smith. ``We fought hard, we fought all the way to the end and made a good comeback. But we know that we started too late. We have to know if we start the game in the beginning that it would be a whole different game.’’

Orlando (19-56) lost even though Harkless – their rookie forward who continues to make massive strides almost on a daily basis – scored a career-best 28 points. He stayed in attack mode through, repeatedly getting all the way to the rim and made 10 of 18 shots and two of four 3-point shots in the career night. It’s his fourth 20-point game of the season.

``We didn’t come out with the right mindset. They got too many points in transition and 66 points in the first half is way too many points,’’ Harkless said. ``We decided to come together and go out there in get stops in the second half. … We were all (in the locker room) talking at halftime and Coach (Jacque Vaughn) didn’t say much because he heard us talking. We went out there and came together.

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