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Houston Rockets Play BIG on Defense in Win Over Orlando

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Houston Rockets looked to even the series with Orlando at one a piece on Tuesday night at Houston’s Toyota Center. Both teams came out hard and found success on the offensive end.

107. 169. . 94. 38

After the first quarter, Rockets led 28-24.  At halftime the Rockets led by 1, with both benches coming through with quality minutes. The teams turned the intensity up in the second half which was highlighted by the awakening of James Harden in the 4th quarter. Big plays from the Rockets bench and stellar defense on the Magic towards the end of the game sealed the victory.

Mar 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) dunks the ball during the second quarter as Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups:

Rockets started Patrick Beverly (PG), James Harden (SG), Trevor Ariza (SF), Donatas Motiejunas (PF) and Joey Dorsey (C).  Coach McHale kept Terrence Jones on the bench to start the game and went with Joey Dorsey at the starting center spot. TJ still got plenty of quality minutes and will continue to be depended on throughout the remainder of the season.

Magic started Elfrid Payton (PG), Victor Oladipo (SG), Tobias Harris (SF), Nikola Vucevic (C) and Dewayne Dedmon (C). The Magic started two centers in hopes of mashing Houston on the boards. Promising guards Oladipo and Payton both have a high ceiling and could be huge building pieces to a top-notch Eastern Conference team.

What Changed?

Last time around, Orlando beat Houston at their house 120-113 on January 14th of this year. The stats were extremely close the last time the two teams saw each other. Magic led in rebounds (+1), steals (+1) and had five fewer turnovers. The only major categories the Rockets led in were blocks (+6) and assists (+2).

Motiejunas and Victor Oladipo put their stamp on the game by halftime with 13 points and 3 rebounds for D-Mo and 17 points and 3 boards for the Magic’s best player. Harden was very quiet in the first half due to rough defense and some possible fatigue.

Lastly, the ability to keep Nikola Vucevic under control was a priority for the Rockets which for the most part they successfully accomplished. Vucevic is one of the better young big men in the game and TJ, Motiejunas and Dorsey definitely had a lot on their plates. Vucevic lit the Rockets up for a big double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds in the first battle at the Amway Center, on Tuesday he was held to 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Stats for Tuesday’s Magic @ Rockets Game

Rockets

47 rebounds – 27 assists – 7 steals – 6 blocks – 14 TO

Magic

40 rebounds – 19 assists – 8 steals – 6 blocks – 10 TO

Not much changed with the combination of a lack of defense and good shot making, however in the first match-up Dwight Howard played 36 mins (23pts/8reb) while Terrence Jones was out was a left leg injury. With their status’ flipped for this game against the Magic, Jones stepped up and was a big part in stopping the gigantic front line of Orlando.

Bench Consistency

The two guys that have been hot for the Rockets bench continued on hot streaks for the St. Patty’s Day match-up against Orlando. Corey Brewer and Josh Smith both had good games again, Brewer hit numerous huge shots and finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists. Josh Smith added 3 to his 17 total for the night on a third quarter “bank,” buzzer beater and came up with loose balls and big shots all night.

Top Performers

Rockets:

  • Donatas Motiejunas: 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists

Magic:

  • Victor Oladipo: 29 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals

Mar 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) takes the ball to the basket during the first quarter as Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Final Thoughts

The Rockets pulled out a hard-fought victory over the Magic on Tuesday night by playing great defense on the opponents big men and having major  veteran production from the bench. The Rockets led in mandatory categories such as assists, FG %, 3-pt % and rebounds, our “Achilles heel” lately.

With Dwight Howard re-projected to come back in the next two weeks and other bigs such as Motiejunas, Smith and Jones all pitching in, the Rockets are set to make a deep run in the payoffs with this solidified bench. Also, it was nice to have a game where Harden could take it easy and not be depended to do a whole lot, completing his night with 17 points and 8 rebounds.

Rockets next game is Thursday in Houston against the Denver Nuggets at 7pm/ct on ROOTS Sports Network.

The organization is set to commemorate the back-to-back Championship teams from the mid-90’s by introducing them at halftime of the game on Thursday.

Next: Can Rockets' bench keep stepping up?

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