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Saturday January 8, 2011 2:29 AM

Magic's Run Makes Rockets Disappear

Rockets drop fourth straight, fall 110-95 in Orlando

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - It was always there, looming like an impending storm on the horizon.

The Rockets knew it, too. While they enjoyed every minute of their December resurgence, they realized the schedule awaiting them in January promised to be beastly. So many playoff teams. So many powerhouses.

All the Rockets could do was take care of the business at hand, make their way back to .500 and hope that the positive momentum gained could help them keep their heads above water when faced with the full force of the tempest set to arrive in the new year.

Well now that storm is here. And the Rockets’ ship, while far from being sunk, is certainly starting to take on plenty of water.

The latest blow to the bow of Houston’s vessel took place Friday night in Orlando, where the Magic dismantled the Rockets 110-95, sending Houston to its fourth straight defeat.

Though undermanned and undersized, the Rockets actually managed to keep things close through the first two quarters of play. Kevin Martin picked up right where he left off after scoring 45 points two nights earlier, pouring in 19 first half points to help Houston stay neck-and-neck with the Magic heading to halftime. The Rockets were also aided by the extended absence of Orlando center Dwight Howard, who played a mere 10 minutes during the first two quarters due to foul trouble.

Turns out, however, that the extremely competitive first half was little more than fool’s gold. With Howard back on the floor to start the third quarter, Orlando’s defense tightened while the Rockets’ D disappeared. The Magic began the half with a 19-5 scoring blitz, instantantly transforming a tight game into a trampling. When the dust finally settled and the quarter mercifully closed, Orlando had outscored Houston 39-21 in the frame, effectively ending any hopes the Rockets had of springing the upset.

“We just fell apart in the third quarter,” said Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman. “We struggled offensively, and we just gave in at the other end. We gave up 39 points, that’s not going to do it on the road.”

Shane Battier echoed Adelman’s sentiment, while pointing out the fact Houston’s breakdowns took place on both sides of the floor.

“Our team has a tendency when things aren’t going well when the offense isn’t going well, to shut it down on the defensive end,” he said. “I think that is what happened and they got a couple of easy buckets. The score got up there a little bit and then we felt we had to individually get ourselves out of the gap and the deficit. This league doesn’t work that way and you have to play team basketball to be a good team.

“We have to continue to attack and continue to move the ball. It is not about making or missing shots. That is basketball. What you have to continue to do is run your offense. You have to move the basketball. You have to move bodies. This offense has proven you can get good shots. We stopped moving the basketball and we were sitting ducks out there.”

If there exists a silver lining from Friday’s flop, it’s that Houston’s players should feel relatively rested for the second leg of their back-to-back which concludes Saturday night when the Rockets’ rivals from Utah pay a visit to Toyota Center. The contest is shaping up to be a game between two teams that both find themselves desperate for a win as Houston hopes to snap out of its 0-for-2011 slump while the Jazz have lost their last two games by an average of 17 points per contest.

Nothing figures to be easy. But then again, the Rockets are already well accustomed to experiencing a high degree of difficulty. January is living up to its perilous promise. Now it’s time for the Rockets to right the ship and start delivering a few blows of their own.

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

“We just fell apart in the third quarter. We struggled offensively, we just gave in at the other end. We gave up 39 points, that’s not going to do it on the road.”

On if the attention Dwight Howard demands leads to the open shots…
“No, I don’t think that was it. It still leads to open shots, you’re right, except that I just thought that we weren’t scoring. We hung our heads and didn’t work as hard as we needed to work at the other end. They got on a real roll, how many layups did they get? We can’t do it that way. You can’t do it, especially against a good team on the road.”

On if this indicates how many weapons the Magic have, aside from Dwight Howard…
“I mean, I said they have a good team and a lot of weapons, I’m more worried about our own team and the way we gave into it. We’ve got to be better than that. And make them work a little bit harder. I’m not taking anything away from them, I’m more disappointed in our guys.”

On if it was an energy deficit…
“No, no. We’ve had this trade before. If we’re not playing well offensively we kind of just hang our heads at the other end. We can’t do that, not in this league.”

KYLE LOWRY:

“We have to play defense and stop those guys from doing what they want.”

“They have a lot of shooters and a lot of guys that can make plays. That is a tough team to play.”

“We were just missing shots. Playing in an Arena like this is always hard. Their fans are against us so it is always tough playing on the road.”

SHANE BATTIER:

“We have to continue to attack and continue to move the ball. It is not about making or missing shots. That is basketball. What you have to continue to do is run your offense. You have to move the basketball. You have to move bodies. This offense has proven you can get good shots. We stopped moving the basketball and we were sitting ducks out there.”

“Our team has a tendency when things aren’t going well when the offense isn’t going well, to shut it down on the defensive end. I think that is what happened and they got a couple of easy buckets. The score got up there a little bit and then we felt we had to individually get ourselves out of the gap and the deficit. This league doesn’t work that way and you have to play team basketball to be a good team.”

“They are a good team and you have to maintain your concentration on their sets and that is why they are one of the better teams in the East.”

KEVIN MARTIN:

“We just have to keep doing our jobs and hopefully it turns around sooner or later.”

“We know we are a team that cannot have any margin for error on the offensive end.”

“It was pretty much an even game going into halftime. He (Howard) sat the whole second quarter and it was one of those games going back and forth. He just showed what his presence can do on the court in the third quarter.”

Orlando Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy:

On Tonight’s Game:
“I thought that we did a good job battling through the foul trouble, particularly with Dwight, but also with Brandon and Ryan. I also think that Earl gave us a big lift when we needed the minutes. I thought that Brandon and Jason both had great offensive nights, and Ryan had a huge run there in the third quarter. I thought Turk and Jameer had a lot of good plays and good passes. Our defense got better after the first quarter. Our second and third quarters were pretty good defensively, and opened up the lead. I thought that our guys adjusted well and did a better job.”

On Eight-Game Win Streak:
“We’re playing better than we were before the trade. We’re playing well but we were 15-4 with that other group too. I think with the sickness we went on a long struggle back there. I think the trades have made us better, there’s no doubt in my mind. I think they were good deals for us. Also people aren’t being fair to the people we had here before because we were a good team. I thought that we’ve come together offensively quicker than I thought we would have, but we still need to work on our defense. I was disappointed in some of the back cuts we gave up and I thought that was a major point of emphasis. I didn’t think we were disciplined. The good part was that we got better defensively as the game went on and we were good in the third quarter and really opened up the lead, so I was happy with that.

On Earl Clark:
“I think that Earl is going to be a really good player. I think that he offensively is very talented, he’s quick, he can shoot the ball, and he can put it on the floor. He is a very hard working guy. He’s the first in here every day, and he is here on off days. Every game he hasn’t played in, after the game, he’s in there working out and shooting until about 11 o’clock. Like I’ve said before, he is a learning kind of person, he really needs to learn more about what we’re doing, and he’s working hard at that. He’s got to get better on his defensive principles. I think when he understands what we’re doing defensive-wise, he can be an outstanding defender. He moves his feet and he plays hard. He showed great effort tonight and I think he’s one of those guys that are going to be able to make multiple efforts. I love what he brings to the table, I really do. I think as he goes on I think we will see the same type of jump that we have seen with Brandon and Ryan.”

Ryan Anderson

“I didn’t score in the first half and my shot wasn’t feeling too great but I knew that I had to contribute somehow. Just wanted to go out and try and have a little more energy going into more pick and rolls. And those shots were real open shots. Those are easier shots to make than probably the ones I was taking in the first half. I think guys did a good job of getting me open, obviously Dwight rolling to the hoop opened me up and Hedo Turkoglu did a good job of finding me during that stretch”

“The past couple of games, guys have been really focusing a lot on Dwight so it’s opening me up and Brandon out on the perimeter. Brandon does a great job of hitting that shot and knocking it down. He can do that consistently. But it’s a good thing that we do have guys that can stretch the court and guys that can take a lot of attention. And Dwight doesn’t have to score 30 points a night to be felt in the game. He opens the court for everybody. I’m glad I’m playing on the same team as him.”

Jameer Nelson

“We want to get better every day. We’re fortunate enough to win and learn some things and continue to win. It’s one of the things coach is talking about it’s easy to lose and learn and work hard, it has to be when we win, we have to work even harder to continue the winning streak. I’m not sure guys are paying attention to the winning streak but the main thing for us right now is to continue to play healthy basketball, get better every day.”

“We still have some things to work on but for the most part, everybody is a lot more comfortable than they were weeks ago. Guys are coming in from a different situation and a different system and stuff like that. We just try to make them as comfortable as possible. Coach basically put in plays that everyone understands, easy pick and roll plays and we’re starting to add more and more every day.”

Earl Clark

“Just try and stay ready and can go in to the game at any time. That’s what my mindset has to be and I just try and be on the bench and focus on the game and when coach calls me to play, I want to be ready.”

“It feels great, I work so hard and Coach appreciates it.”

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