Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Orlando Magic

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Following an overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls and a long stretch of rest, the Rockets are ready to get back to action against the Orlando Magic. The Rockets are looking to take advantage of this home stand and recover from the rough road-heavy schedule they had in January. They now sit at 37-17 and 3rd in the West. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by MVP candidate James Harden, at 28.9 points, 11.4 assists, and  8.2 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 3rd in offensive rating, 18th in defensive rating, and 4th in net rating.

The Magic are in a rough stretch themselves, having won only 5 of their last 20 games, and sitting at 13th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 20-33. On Saturday, the Magic were crushed by Atlanta and lost 86-113 in a game where they were unable to score, a problem that has plagued them all season. The Magic are led in scoring by Evan Fournier at 16.6 points, in assists by Elfrid Payton at 5.8 assists, and in rebounds by Nikola Vucevic. The Magic rank 29th in offensive rating, 22nd in defensive rating, and 27th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

After missing the game against the Bulls due to a sore groin, Nene is likely to be back in the rotation for the Rockets on Tuesday. The Rockets will likely start James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes.

The Magic will be without wing shooter Jodie Meeks for Tuesday's game, and will likely start with at Elfrid Payton at point guard, Evan Fournier at shooting guard, Aaron Gordon at small forward, Serge Ibaka at power forward, and Nikola Vucevic at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Rested Legs – The Rockets haven't played a game following multiple days rest in over a month, having either a single day, or no days in between their last 18 games. Now, as they face the Magic after three days rest, we will be able to see how much of the Rockets poor shooting and rebounding could be attributed to tired legs, from both travel and wear. Watch to see if the Rockets begin to look like the Rockets we saw in December with their legs back under them.

  • Round Two – The Rockets last played the Magic on January 6th, in a 100 to 93 victory. The Rockets had a tough game, turning the ball over 16 times and shooting just 30% from three, which allowed a less talented team to stick with them throughout the game. Another way the Magic were able to keep up with the Rockets was their advantage in points in the paint, leading the Rockets 54 to 42. Watch to see if the Rockets focus on keeping Orlando out of the paint and are able to take care of the ball.

  • Score Inside – The Magic are one of the worst teams at keeping opposing offenses out of the paint, allowing the 5th highest percentage of shots at the rim in the NBA. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to get past the Magic perimeter defenders and attack the Magic's interior defense, specifically with Vucevic, with his rim protection deficiencies, in the game at center.

Prediction and Tip-Off

This Rockets should have no problem handling business and taking care of the Magic. They have a poor team coming to their arena after having a couple of days to get their legs back under them and nurse any lingering injuries - all the ingredients of a blow-out victory.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Tuesday, February 7th. The game will be televised on NBA TV and ROOT SPORTS, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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