Although he finished with 28 points, James Harden struggled again from the field versus the Magic. With his shot not falling, most of his points came from the free throw line. Specifically Harden shot 27.3 percent from the field and was a horrendous 2-10 from downtown. Fortunately Harden’s teammates stepped up and played their best basketball of the season.
Dwight Howard reminded Orlando how he became their best player in franchise history with 23 points (10-10 from the field) and 14 rebounds. And Trevor Ariza demonstrated why he is the Rockets’ best all-around player scoring 19 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, and snaring 3 steals. While Harden struggled to hold on to the ball with 7 turnovers, Ty Lawson‘s playing making ability came in handy with 16 points and 8 assists. This is the second consecutive strong game from Lawson and there are signs of what the team can become with more minutes spent together on the court.
The Rockets got off to a sluggish start early in the game and their defense was harder than Waldo to find. In the first seven minutes, the Magic shot 87.5 percent from the field to take a 35-34 lead after the first quarter. Regardless of what the Rockets lacked on defense they more than made up offensively.
Although Marcus Thornton scored 5 of their first 8 points, the Rockets played some of their best team basketball of the season. Wednesday night was the first time Ty Lawson played as Houston’s primary facilitator over James Harden. Lawson had 8 points and added 6 of the rockets’ 17 assists of the first half.
Although Houston shot an even 50 percent from behind the arc, the Rockets did not forget to feed their big fella down in the post. Howard had a strong start to the half going 6-6 from the floor for 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. It was nice to see Howard and Lawson connecting on nice lobs like this.
Dwight doing work. 7 points 3 rebounds early in Q1. https://t.co/13ZQZyqsoT
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 5, 2015
For the first time all season, the Rockets looked like a team contending for a championship this season taking a 68-59 lead into halftime. That said a continuing issue through this point in the early season is the Rockets tendency to lose energy when they come out from the halftime break.
The second half seemed like déjà vu for the Rockets as they watched their double-digit lead dwindle down in the third quarter. The great ball movement Houston displayed in the first half vanished as the Rockets shot more from behind the arc, other than feeding the inside. Although the Magic outscored Houston 29-22 in the third, the Rockets still had a slim lead heading into the fourth.
The Rockets had no answer for Evan Fournier. He scored a game high of 29 points and helped the Magic take the lead midway through the fourth quarter. Although the Rockets had a two point lead with 47 seconds left, it was unfortunate that Harden and Corey Brewer missed some crucial free throws that kept the Magic in the game.
With 1.1 seconds left, Fournier knocked down two clutch free throws tying the game at 110 points sending the game to overtime.
Harden FINALLY arrived to make a crucial and timely basket, but it was Dwight Howard who continued to dominate in overtime. Howard’s defensive stops proved why his presence on the floor is an important piece of the puzzle as the Rockets got their second straight win of the season inching closer to .500.
Howard & Lawson: Dwight Howard and Ty Lawson will become the first little-man big-man duo in Houston since Steve Francis and Yao Ming. Once Howard and Lawson get accustomed to each other, they will be a deadly combination for their opponents. The combo connected on multiple alley oops, probably making Orlando fans reminisce on what they once had in the Magic Kingdom. With Lawson running the show in Houston, look for the Rockets to play more inside-out this season.
Dwight went and got that one! 13 points & 7 rebounds in the first half. https://t.co/BTFKOyTQl6
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 5, 2015
The Thornton Show: Marcus Thornton has been out of this world as of late for the Rockets. In the first-half, Thornton scored 14 of his 18 points, and since his breakout game Sunday, has been one of Houston’s primary scorers. In his first three games, Thornton has averaged 16.5 points, and 4.5 rebounds.
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Although having him in the starting lineup makes the Rockets’ a smaller team, arguably Thornton should continue to do so. One has to admit, the Rockets have played better basketball since Sunday when he took over at the starting small forward. Plus there is precedent with small ball bringing the Golden State Warriors a title. Then again, let’s hope Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas return is imminent, so options are available.
Welcome Back Ariza: While everyone has talked about James Harden struggles early in the season, it has overshadowed Trevor Ariza’s ugly start. In the first three games Ariza was averaging 8.8 points on 27.5 percent shooting from the field. Wednesday night was by far his best game in this young season. With 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals. The Rockets need Ariza to play this way more than any other player if they want to win a title.
With the Rockets inching nearer to .500 ball they face the Sacramento Kings next on Friday night. Let us know what you thought of this exciting game in the comments section.
Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.