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Game Day – Houston Rockets Face Magic Looking to Extend Win Streak to 4

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Houston Rockets Game Day: Rockets vs. Magic

The Rockets arrive in Orlando to face Dwight Howard’s old squad amid copious rumors of him once again not being happy with this team. Some have speculated all the speculation around Howard has led to the team drawing closer and led to back to back wins.

In Orlando they’ll find a very young squad who aren’t just learning how to win, but they’ve had some pretty convincing and spectacular victories this season. New head coach Scott Skiles has the Magic functioning on both ends of the floor and already has imprinted his stamp of tough nosed compete level on his young team.

Conversely Bickerstaff is still struggling to gain the confidence of his mostly veteran laden team while he attempts to help them rediscover the talents that led them to the Western Conference Finals last season. This season has been marred with inconsistency and regression specifically on the defensive end of the court. Recently the team has put together more wins than losses and may be finally drawing together as a team to function as a unit.

This is one of the many tough matches in cue for the Rockets who face a very tough test over the next few weeks. Including the Hornets game they just played the Rockets will face 8 teams over .500 in their next 11 (two games versus the Jazz and one versus the Pelicans are the exceptions). For Houston to make believers out of the masses they’ll need to continue to improve and win during this period.

With that, let’s compare the teams and tonight’s match-up:

The Details

Venue: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida

Game Time: 7:00 PM EST – 6:00 PM CT

TV: ROOT and FS Florida plus NBA TV has selected this as the game of the night

Radio: 790 AM and ESPN 580 / Salsa 98.

Recent History:

The teams split last season regular season games and the Rockets dramatically won their first meeting this season in overtime.

Walking Wounded:

Magic:

Rockets:

Projected Starters:

Magic: Shabazz Napier Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic,  Channing Frye (Note: assume Napier will get the start if Payton can’t go)

Rockets: Patrick Beverley, James HardenTrevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, Clint Capela

Key Reserves:

Magic: Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja, Victor Oladipo, Jason Smith, Andrew Nicholson

Rockets: Donatas Motiejunas, Marcus Thornton, Corey Brewer,  Jason TerryTy Lawson

Key Match-up:

Nikola Vucevic vs. Dwight Howard 

With the prospect of Payton having to sit it should give the Rockets the edge in the back court, but the front court will be where all the action is.

While Vucevic is undeniably a force in the front court he’s had to get out of Scott Skiles dog house for not playing defense. Now that he’s proven he bought in to Skile’s defensive plan he’s getting consistent minutes. Howard on the other hand has been intent on proving he wants to remain a Rockets player and it seems his team is now playing with more of a ‘all for one’ mentality.

The Magic x factor has been Andrew Nicholson who replaced Vucevic when Skiles sent him to the bench. Nicholson’s career hasn’t just been reinvigorated he’s proven he has the ability to hit the outside shot and play defense which coincidentally were the two areas he was sited as lacking in.

Keys to Winning:

  • Meet the energy of the youthful Magic squad
  • Force turnovers to get out on the break
  • Win the paint
  • Win the rebound battle
  • Pace: If there is one area the Rockets hold a major advantage in it’s pace. However to utilize this strength the Rockets need to rebound well, limit their turnovers while also forcing them from the Magic. If they do these things they’ll be able to get out in transition.
  • DON’T underestimate this Magic team: One thing this Orlando team won’t do it quit, no matter what the score is they’ll continue to compete and they are never out of a game nor do any team scare them. They are deep, talented and well coached.
  • Build winning habits: Rockets have plenty of tough competition on the horizon so the longer they can extend this winning streak the better for the team and more importantly the chemistry of the squad.

More from Space City Scoop

The Pick:

The odds makers have given the Rockets a one point edge which in essence amounts to about three points given Houston are the visiting team. The over-under is listed as 208 points and through mid day the action appears to be equally divided. In other words no one is sure which of these teams will win.

Review of the above stat comparison shows exactly how close these teams are though the Rockets have been improving it’s difficult to give them an absolute nod since their competition hasn’t been in the upper echelon.

Still, with the Spurs on tap for Christmas Day and the games just prior and after Christmas being two of the toughest in the schedule let’s hope the veterans on Houston understand that. Notably, Harden tends to raise his game when he’s featured on NBA TV so expect a big night from the bearded man.

Prediction: Rockets by 3

For more exciting news and stories on the Orlando Magic visit our affiliate Fansided site: Orlando Magic Daily

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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.

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