Houston Rockets @ Orlando Magic on 1/13/19

On the heels of another historic James Harden night where he became the first player in NBA history to record a 40-point triple-double in under 30 minutes (43 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in 29:34) against the Cavaliers on Friday, the Rockets will look to improve their overall record to 25-17 against the Orlando Magic on Sunday night, making their record 14-3 over the last 17 games.

While the Magic certainly are not in the same lower tier of the league as the Cleveland Cavaliers, they are another below .500 team that has lost 4 of their last 5 games. The Magic are currently in that weird middle-ground of the NBA where they aren’t in full on tank mode (with currently only the 7th best odds per their NBA Lottery ranking to win the “Zion Williamson” sweepstakes this summer), but aren’t quite out of the playoff race just yet sitting 1 game out of the 8th seed at 10th in the Eastern Conference.

The Magic have put together some big wins this season, such as last night’s win against the Celtics and recently blowing out the Raptors a few weeks ago, but they’ve been unable to play consistently good basketball for stretches of games at a time. They are an average team as far as Defensive Rating goes (12th in the NBA), but one of the league’s worst in terms of their offense (27th in Offensive Rating). Their one constant bright spot throughout the year has been their primary offensive weapon in Center Nikola Vucevic, who is beginning to make a legitimate case for a front court all star slot in the East averaging 20.1 PPG, 12.0 RPG, and 3.7 APG on the year.

The Rockets may not have a field day scoring against the Magic the way they did against the Cavaliers’ porous defense in their last game, but as long as they can continue their trend of hot 3pt shooting (40.8% over the last 3 games), receive decent contributions from their bench players (e.g G. Green and B. Knight), and limit Vucevic to a decent night while making the supporting Magic players beat them, look for the Rockets to win this one handily on the road.

Prediction: Rockets 127 – Magic 101

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A win today and they keep pace with OKC for the 4th seed. Pretty remarkable still to consider that home-court is in play, given the start to the season.

Grizzlies, Nets, Lakers the rest of this week.

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