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Saturday January 22, 2011 11:17 PM

Magic Act Leaves Rockets Cold

Orlando dominates from start to finish, blasts Rockets 118-104

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Some opponents present problematic matchups.

Others are absolute nightmares.

You can go ahead and put the Orlando Magic in the latter category – at least so far as the Rockets are concerned. Because while Orlando might not be the best team in the NBA, the Magic are without a doubt the worst matchup in the league for Houston.

With Dwight Howard dominating down low and Orlando’s dizzying array of outside shooters handling the rest, the Magic simply overwhelmed Houston Saturday night, breezing to a 118-104 victory.

Utilizing its pick your poison pick and roll to lethal perfection, Orlando sprinted to a big early lead and never looked back, sweeping the 2-game season series from Houston by an average margin of victory of 14.5 points.

“It’s a tough matchup,” conceded Shane Battier after the game. “For us to beat these guys we have to play pretty well. Obviously we didn’t have that effort tonight but they’re good. For us to beat them, for anyone to beat them, you have to concentrate for the entire 48. They put you in a lot of precarious situations with the pick and roll and it’s a tough cover.”

Orlando jumped all over the Rockets right from the opening tip, burying Houston beneath a barrage of 3-pointers. The Magic went 8-of-17 from downtown in the first half, as their lead ballooned to as large as 21 points. Houston enjoyed a brief surge after watching 6-6 Chuck Hayes stuff the 7-foot Howard in the second quarter, and the Rockets responded by peeling off an 8-0 run to get within 54-41. But Orlando simply went right back to work, clinically dissecting Houston’s helpless defense with one bucket after another.

Houston’s primary problem with the unique conundrum presented by the Magic: it all begins with the man in the middle, as the Rockets simply have no one inside to deal with the potent combination of strength, size and explosiveness possessed by Howard. Once he gets the ball near the basket, the jig is already up. When the Magic miss shots, it takes a small army to keep him off the glass. And with all the extra attention he commands, Orlando’s plethora of perimeter threats are often the happy beneficiaries, ready, willing and able to unleash a flurry of 3-point bombs.

When those shots are falling, there’s not a more dangerous offensive team in the league. And Saturday night they came cascading upon the Rockets in torrents, 13 in all, sealing the Rockets’ fate long before the final buzzer mercifully sounded.

“We might have been a step slow on our rotations,” said Battier. “The issue is you have to support your big guy when Howard is rolling to the basket. You have to buy Chuck a second to get back in the play, which means the weak side guys have to get in for a second. Then Jameer Nelson does a great job of finding those guys on the weak side when you’re out of position, so there’s no easy answer when playing these guys.”

Added Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman: “[Orlando] just shot it well, executed well and pretty much did what they wanted to. We've got to get back to the drawing board. Got a game against Minnesota Monday that we've got to get ready for.

“This hasn’t happened to us very often this year, so hopefully we can respond.”

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

“Obviously, I’m disappointed with our effort. I can't remember a game that we've had like that. They (Magic) just shot it well, executed well and pretty much did what they wanted to. We've got to get back to the drawing board. Got a game against Minnesota Monday that we've got to get ready for.”

Dwight Howard is a handful for us around the basket and they shot the lights out. They shot jumper after jumper. You have to take him away and they do a great job of spacing the court. When a team shoots it like that and they spread the court, it’s hard for anybody to guard. I thought the first half we missed shots and we seemed to hang our heads. I thought we gave them some transition stuff that made it easy for them because we were busy thinking about what had happened at the offensive end. You can’t get into that. You have to be mentally tougher. A team like this you have to keep your concentration and if you get burned once you have to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Instead, we lost our concentration and they pretty much toyed with us after they got their 20-point lead.

This hasn’t happened to us very often this year, so hopefully we can respond.

SHANE BATTIER

It’s a tough matchup. For us to beat these guys we have to play pretty well. Obviously we didn’t have that effort tonight but they’re good. For us to beat them, for anyone to beat them, you have to concentrate for the entire 48. They put you in a lot of precarious situations with the pick and roll and it’s a tough cover.

(defensively what could the team have done better?): We might have been a step slow on our rotations. The issue is you have to support your big guy when Howard is rolling to the basket. You have to buy Chuck a second to get back in the play, which means the weak side guys have to get in for a second. Then Jameer Nelson does a great job of finding those guys on the weak side when you’re out of position, so there’s no easy answer when playing these guys.

We didn’t help matters by taking great shots. To beat these guys you have to grind it out on the offensive end and make them work to take quality shots and not allow them to get easy shots in transition.

CHUCK HAYES

(On the Rockets surrendering the lead early) “They (Magic) went on a run. We couldn't hit shots. They hit shots and our heads went down. The game is so long anything can happen but once they got that lead, they got comfortable and they're a great team. If you fall behind them, very seldom will they let go of a big lead.”

(On defending Dwight Howard) “He is a big body and he is strong. I kind of know what he is going to do. Tonight he didn't hurt us scoring, he hurt us more in getting us in foul trouble. That's what he does. He is one of the league's best at free throw attempts and foul draws. Once he does that he is in control. He is so aggressive, you’ve got to pick and choose when to be aggressive with him because he is such a great foul draw.”

LUIS SCOLA

(On the shooting of the Magic) “They were hitting shots and it's hard when they do because when they do, they are a pretty talented team and they have a lot of players (that can shoot the ball). We have to be able to recognize when we are doing a good job defensively regardless if they're making shots or not. We were making some mistakes too. Those five 3's that they made right away were even more of a problem because we felt like we weren't doing a great job when they hit those shots, and they hit those shots anyway. I don't think it was about the shots they made. Right now they are in the better stage than we are right now.”

ORLANDO MAGIC QUOTES

COACH STAN VAN GUNDY

(On the game) “Our ball movement was really good. We got a lot of guys involved and Dwight (Howard) was dominating. Other than Houston getting too many rebounds, I thought it was a good all around performance.”

(On his team’s play) “I was very happy with Turkoglu’s play. I’ve been very pleased with our energy. Brian Anderson has been playing well and he has been a huge difference to our recent play. Brandon (Bass) has battled very hard defensively the last few nights.”

(On the up-coming schedule) “We have a tough stretch coming up. The in and out games on road trips is very tough when you are coming from Florida. It can be rough but everybody’s got to do it.”

DWIGHT HOWARD

(On his play) “I love to have fun and try to win games for my team. It’s not just about basketball players, because we are role models. I want to be one of the greatest players of all time.”

(On the game) “We came out with better energy. We moved the ball, got open shots and just played good defense.”

(On Chuck Hayes defending him) “He’s tough. He’s like a tree stump. You just have to shoot over him.”

(On working with Hakeem and coming to the game) “It compliments a lot of the things I worked on with Hakeem (Olajuwon) in the off-season. It was very special to see him because I didn’t know he was coming. I‘m just glad we got the win.”

HEDO TURKOGLU

(On the Magic’s play) “We have ups and downs as a team but we seem to get out of them quickly. The last two games have been good. We have a lot of offensive guys that can do some good stuff. We have a lot of guys that can shoot from outside and we have Dwight inside. That’s how we play – inside out.”

JASON RICHARDSON

(On the game) “We did a good job of attacking the basket and we were knocking down our shots. We played with a lot of energy. It felt like everything was going in. Dwight (Howard) has been doing a great job dominating the game.

NOTES

Houston’s attendance of 18,052 tonight marked the seventh sellout at Toyota Center in 2010-11.

The Rockets lost 118-104 to the Magic tonight, giving Orlando a four-game winning streak over Houston.

Houston did not allow a steal tonight, which marked just the second time in team history for that to occur. The Sacramento Kings also had no steals against the Rockets nearly 25 years to the date at Houston on Jan. 23, 1986.

Orlando registered opponent season highs in 3-pointers made (13) and attempts (32) tonight. It marked the 12th time in their last 17 games that the Magic have hit at least 10 shots from downtown.

The Magic recorded an opponent season-high 68 first-half points (26-43 FG, 8-16 3FG) tonight, surpassing a 67-point opening half by the Warriors at Golden State (10/27/10).

Orlando placed seven players (all five starters) in double-digit scoring, while the Rockets had six with 10-plus points tonight. It was the fourth time this season for an opponent to have seven players with 10 or more points in a single game.

Chase Budinger notched a team-high 19 points (8-11 FG, 3-5 3FG) and five boards tonight. Budinger has now picked up nine double-digit scoring performances over his 15 last games (12/29/10-1/22/11), which includes a season-best four straight outings of 10 or more points (12/29/10-1/3/11: 14.0 ppg, 11-15 3FG). Budinger had scored 10-plus points only seven times over his first 27 appearances of the season.

Kevin Martin had 18 points (5-18 FG, 6-7 FT) tonight. Martin entered this game averaging 29.7 points over his previous three games.

Luis Scola recorded 15 points (5-11 FG) and a team-high nine rebounds, helping the Rockets outrebound the Magic by a 47-46 count.

Kyle Lowry finished with 12 points (4-9 FG, 3-3 FT) and three assists. Lowry, who tonight made his first trip to the free throw line since at Atlanta (1/15/11), has now made his last 21 free throw attempts (1/10/11-1/22/11).

Chuck Hayes recorded 10 points (4-7 FG), seven rebounds, a team-high four assists and one blocked shot tonight. Hayes also had 10 points (5-8 FG), seven boards and four assists last night at Memphis (1/21/11). It marked the first time this season Hayes has recorded consecutive double-figure scoring performances.

Dwight Howard posted a game-high 22 points (7-11 FG, 8-13 FT), 14 rebounds (13 defensive) and two blocks tonight, which marked his 32nd double-double of the season (third in NBA).

Hedo Turkoglu totaled a season-high 21 points (8-11 FG, 2-4 3FG), five assists and two blocks tonight. His previous high was 20 points at New Jersey (12/27/10).

Jason Richardson, who had a team-high 18 points (7-8 FG, 4-5 3FG) in the last meeting at Orlando (1/7/11), picked up another 18 points (7-12 FG, 4-7 3FG) in this game and finished 10-of-14 (.714) from beyond the arc in three total games against the Rockets this season.

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