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Orlando Magic @ Houston Rockets on 10/16/13

As the Orlando Magic head to Houston to square off against the Rockets one can’t help but wonder what the physical state of the home team will be. Coming off a mogul’s tour of Asia which had the team making numerous public appearances in addition to facing top tier talent in the Indiana Pacers, the team might still be feeling the effects of their globetrotting schedule.

The Rockets of course will not only be battling the time change but also the Orlando Magic. The Magic are a young team still looking for a W this preseason. The early contributions of their prized rookie, Victor Oladipo, who has been coming off the bench so far this preseason, has to have them excited for their future. Though Oladipo got almost all his minutes at shooting guard in college while at Indiana, the Magic and coach Jaques Vaughn have been playing him quite a bit at the point so far. The young guard still has a lot to learn about playing point in the big boy league and his ball handling skills could be a weakness early on, but there is no denying his defensive prowess and play making ability will be key for the Magic going forward.

Two other young contributors to the team include Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. Vucevic is a third year center who was drafted by the 76ers and was one of the pieces in the Bynum-Howard deal that sent Dwight to the Lakers indirectly making Vucevic partially responsible for Dwight donning the red and white. Indirect and partial thanks Nikola! With the injuries that have plagued Bynum, and Vucevic’s ascent to the being among the top young centers in the East, Vucevic can now be viewed as the second best player in that deal. Harris is a springy third year forward who started last season averaging 11 minutes a game on a Bucks team that was going nowhere. After the trade, Harris averaged more than 35 minutes per and 17 points to go along with 8.5 rebounds. In his first full season with the Magic Harris will be expected to shine.

Two of the veterans charged with leading this group of youngsters are in a bit of a tricky situation. Glen Davis is coming off a career year but had to undergo foot surgery this off season and could be looking at limited minutes when he returns should Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson progress the way Coach Jaques Vaughn hopes. Long time Magic fixture Jameer Nelson may also see his playing time reduced now that Oladipo is getting play at the point guard position. With both of these wily veterans in reduced roles they might have to impart most of their wisdom from the bench.

Let’s talk match-ups starting with the guards. The Magic duo of Oladipo and Nelson may present problems for Lin and Beverley for different reasons than you might think. Oladipo is the stronger more athletic guard of the two for the Magic but his inexperience in handling the ball could be a weakness that Patrick Beverley may exploit, as he did against Jru Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans in their preseason match-up last week. Lin has an opportunity to assert himself on the offensive end against the relatively diminutive Nelson. Oladipo’s defensive tenacity could be a challenge when paired against Lin. This should be a good test of Lin’s ability to go against larger athletic guards who seem to be in vogue especially in the Western Conference (Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Goran Dragic, Jru Holiday, etc.) Aaron Afflalo will be tasked with guarding Harden and running through and around screens might just be enough of a task for his shooting to suffer on the other end. Afflalo is a competent defender but I fully expect Harden to have his way on the offensive end.

The match-ups at the forward position should be very interesting. Parsons will be defended by Moe Harkless, another member of Orlando’s youth movement. Harkless is a tireless defender and can wreak havoc in the passing lanes. Parsons should have his stamina tested against the long arms and quick hands of Harkless but as long as Parsons can do his duty on defense while maintaining his status as a slasher and shooter he should get the best of this matchup. Kyle O’Quinn will start in place of Glen Davis and should be easily handled by either Terrence Jones or Donatas Motiejunas.

At center Vucevic will have a lot on his plate attempting to contain Dwight Howard. Howard’s athleticism is tough to go against for any center in the league, but Vucevic is active enough to keep up with the pick and rolls which he will be tasked with defending. Dwight will have to be patient on the defensive end and stay out of foul trouble.

 

 

 

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Total comments: 22
  • Sir Thursday says 10 months ago

    Oops, I put the recap from last night's game in the wrong thread. Bad things happen when I have to do stuff at 3AM...

    ST

  • Buckko says 10 months ago RBF, you're getting a little ahead of yourself by saying Dmo could be better than asik. First he needs to know the meaning of rebounds and defense rotations but he does have talent, no denying that. I can't wait for my man Greg Smith to come back.
  • Drew in Abilene says 10 months ago

    Felt like this was a good and important win, especially since Houston has a rough schedule ahead of them. This win wasn't quite as easy as I'd like, but even though Houston didn't put them away as well as hoped, they led by double digits for a lot of the contest. Raced out to a strong start, then held Orlando at bay for the rest of the game.

  • Red94 says 10 months ago New post: Houston Rockets 98, Orlando Magic 88 - A Return to How Things Are Supposed to Be
    By: Rob Dover

    The Orlando Magic look to have a lot to look forward to in years to come, but they are very much playing for the future right now. For a team that can reasonably be accused of playing down to the level of their opposition at times, this was a chance for the Rockets to show that they are capable of efficiently dispatching inferior opponents. It wasn't a completely serene process, but in the end they came away with a comfortable win. It's great that occasionally everything can go according to plan!

    • The Rockets came out slow, bringing back uncomfortable memories of the two recent losses against Phoenix and Utah. McHale was forced to call a timeout after they slipped to a 9-2 hole early on, but this time the team was able to snap out of their funk with a vengeance. They launched a barrage of threes and it seemed as though all of them went in. A 17-0 run was the result and helped turn the deficit to a 28-18 lead after the first quarter. Obviously this isn't the sort of thing you want to rely on happening night-in night-out, but it is an expected part of the Rockets' strategy that every now and then they will get a surge like this and it will get them out of a jam.
    • The Rockets eventually were able to build a lead and slowly stretch it out, and it was a progression that felt effortless and inevitable. The Rockets were consistently attacking the rim, and the Magic seemed to have no answer but to foul repeatedly. At the other end the Magic were being forced to settle for outside shots and none of them were dropping. The superior athleticism of Jones and Howard was overpowering the wide-bodies of Davis and Maxiell and the superior outside shooting of Harden, Parsons and Beverley was burying the Magic shooters' attempts to respond from beyond the arc.
    • For all that they looked like they were in command of the game, the Rockets let the Magic back into it in the fourth quarter as they cut the lead to 10 on the back of Jameer Nelson heating up from beyond the arc. This necessitated keeping the starters in for most of the fourth quarter in what would ideally have been garbage time. Normally this would be a cause for concern, but with some time off before their next game McHale had the luxury of being able to leave them out there without having to worry too much about minutes limitations.
    • Terrence Jones (16 points, 13 boards, 5 blocks)  was once again a live wire (when isn't he these days?). He had some spectacular rejections, and continues to show the ability to make plays off the dribble that will hopefully make him a terror to guard for years to come. You should see at least one nice play of his on the top 10 tonight. During the third quarter he rose up to block a Glen Davis jumper, then ran the court. Harden was able to feed him the ball through the legs of Oladipo for the slam. Very pretty!
    • The Magic did a great job of defending the pick-and-roll tonight. On most nights, when Howard rolls to the lane the lob is always open. But you could tell that Jacque Vaughn has done an excellent job of drilling his young team against this play. Every time the Rockets ran the play the help defender was there on time if not early to disrupt the lob. It takes great timing and athleticism to intercept that pass, so I was really impressed by how consistently they were able to defend it. This is a defensive blueprint that other teams will certainly be looking at later in the year, so the Rockets are going to have to start working on a counter.
    • Motiejunas had an interesting battle with Glen Davis in the second quarter. Initially it looked like D-Mo didn't have the body mass to deal with Davis, picking up two quick fouls. But McHale persisted with him and the big Lithuanian's play picked up later on in his stint. There was one particularly noteworthy stretch in which he altered three consecutive shots at the rim, causing the Magic to miss them all. Still, overall it was not the sort of performance that demands more playing time. I still have doubts that he's capable of holding down the role full time, but any court time he can get right now is good for him.
  • BenQueens says 1 YEAR ago

    DoMo? What happened to the good old days, when we were going to call him "Donuts"?

  • vonsteve says 1 YEAR ago

    I hope we can officially change his nickname from DMo to DoMo. More fun to say.

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    actually I'm kind on high on the guy.........looks like he can pan out to be a better version of Asik to me. he still has some learning to do, but I like what I see. I got to watch him a little closer this year. he doesn't have the talent to be a star, but he can be a nice defensive anchor for years to come. I must say I was a little surprised he challenged Howard as much as he did. last year I assumed he was just a decent player getting overblown numbers from being on a bad team......this year he has my attention.

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    D-Mo did play better in the second half (although to be honest it would have been hard not to), but the slump he went through in the second quarter was actively detrimental to the team. I just can't see him getting big minutes when he can go through periods like that - when you're committing that many fouls and turnovers it will destroy a team's rhythm and that's not something the Rockets can really afford.

    On Vucevic, I was more impressed with him this time than I have been on previous outings. He is a beast on the glass and looked a lot more active defensively than I remember him being. I mentioned in my recap that the entry passes were poor, and he has to get a lot of credit for that. He did an excellent job fronting and making it really difficult for the Rockets to get the ball into the post cleanly. It was good to see that he has stopped trying to shoot jumpers - probably for the best now that the team has a few guards back who can actually play. And he knows how to take advantage of a smaller defender - Terrence Jones had no chance when he drew the assignment. The only downside was the foul trouble that limited his minutes, but I chalk that up to the refs being a bit whistle happy in the pre-season. So yeah, I liked what I saw. What did you think RBF?

    ST

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    very very nice assessment of the game. I pretty much saw the same thing you did. D-Mo's play does have me perplexed. perhaps he's not as far along in his development curve as I had hoped. I think T-Jones is ready to eat up some minutes at the PF position, but D-Mo doesn't look like he has developed as much. it may take a trade after all to fill that position for at least this year anyway. I'm not for giving either of the 2 away in any trade that doesn't net us a superior PF, but PF does seem to be our weakest position. I want to wait till I see Asik play there before judgment, but it appears we may need a more established player there. Sir Thursday you and I were discussing Vucevic the other day..........how did you think he looked last night?

  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago if jones or dmo don't work out pf is the easiest spot to get a quick fix so I'd give it some time but you also have be clicking on all cylinders come playoffs so not too much time.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago We should just play Jones and get his growing pains out of the way. If he's not learning from his mistakes, try DMo. If neither can be a reliable player we will have to trade for a PF. Amir might be available if the Raps implode. Why not give a second and a prospect to the Spurs for Bonner. He's smart, killer from three, and is no longer a liability on defense(he's not a plus, but not a minus either).
  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    PF position is really a concern. Neither TJ nor D-Mo are ready for a championship team.

    We have never seen Asik play at PF, so you can't say for sure he will be good alongside Howard.

    Smith had done it with limited success. Still he ain't a serviceable PF for championship team.

    With too many PFs and uncertainty of Asik, Morey might go for a PF, either a star or a proven solid player.

  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    You're right, I've definitely seen worse outings from D-mo... The more I think about the PF conundrum, while watching these games, the less confident I feel that either TJ or D-mo will be playing "starter" minutes this season. One reason being that there will be games and times that Howard and Asik will man the post for stretches. But, mainly because we have a bevy of "larger" SFs who are more NBA ready than those two, and what they may give up in an inch or two of height, they make up for with speed and the ability to spread the floor. I think I would prefer marching out, at the onset: Bev, Harden, Garcia, Parsons and Howard, especially with the idea that we will be jacking up 3s early and often. Subbing in Casspi or Smith in Parsons' place, then filling in the SF with Garcia or still Parsons. I think the primary forward rotations will look something like that. Jones and D-mo still have a lot of work to do on their games in order to be effective on a squad ready to contend.

  • NorEastern says 1 YEAR ago While D-Mo did have about 3 mental lapses in the second quarter he did finish with 14 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes. And per 36 ... Not to mention he was very aware on defense.
  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: Houston Rockets 108, Orlando Magic 104: Offensive Philosophy Theft Alert!
    By: Rob Dover

    The Rockets' first game back on US soil came against a Magic team bursting at the seams with young and talented players. From Vucevic to Harkless, from Nicholson to Oladipo, there are many names on this Orlando team that we could well be hearing about for many years to come. It looks like it might be another season or two before they put it all together though, as despite showing flashes of good play they weren't able to string together consistent stretches of good play.  After coming out and looking sloppy and allowing the Magic to get a small lead, the Houston starters were re-inserted halfway through the second quarter and built a lead by halftime that the team would not relinquish for the rest of the game (though it was briefly tense at the end). Howard and Harden sat out the entirety of the second half as McHale got a chance to watch his subs play out the game.

    Observations:

    • Parsons (coach's decision) and Lin (illness) sat out tonight, so McHale started the game with a lineup of Beverley-Harden-Garcia-Casspi-Howard. A time-traveller from about 5 years ago would have rubbed their eyes in disbelief as they watched the innovative Orlando offense they were very familiar with, but on the other side of the court to where they would expect! The array of shooters fanned out neatly around Howard's interior presence, and lined up to take pot-shot after pot-shot from the outside. It was impressive how three-ball orientated the team looked from the outset - they started with consecutive three pointers and never looked back. The stats tell the story - in the first half the team was 11-22 from behind the arc as opposed to just 9-21 from inside. I really liked the look of this group and more importantly I think this general blueprint is one that McHale should be using a lot once the games begin in earnest, particularly if the man with PF duties can do his job defensively (more on that below).
    • Early in the game the Rockets really struggled with their entry passes. Vucevic did a lot of fronting, and the Magic did a good job of providing help when the Rockets attempted to throw it into the post. The lobs were high or off target, and it meant that Howard was unable to establish himself in the post. The slow lobs took a lot of his attention and made it difficult to spot the double team coming. They also gave the help defender enough time to get across and challenge on the catch, which is a recipe for disaster and led to several turnovers. The one time when Harden did throw an effective entry pass, Howard converted with a smooth move to the hoop. It showed just how critical a skill it is for the team to perfect. If Howard's focus on posting up continues into the regular season and the team is unable to get him the ball there, it will lead to a lot of wasted possessions.
    • Because of the poor entry passes Howard was rather quiet tonight on the offensive end, scoring 8 points on 2-6 shooting (4-6 from the free throw line). He was able to make his presence felt defensively though - he had three excellent blocked shots and generally looked engaged and active.
    • On the first play of the game, Howard caught the ball in the post and went up for a shot, only to have it blocked by Vucevic. When a timeout was called a few plays later, you could see McHale motioning to Howard and showing him what he should have done to get it off cleanly. It's great that McHale is able to provide such instant and effective feedback, and it certainly sounds like Howard is respectful enough of him to take instruction.  Keeping that good working relationship between the two will be important during the long slog of the regular season, particularly since there will be much more media scrutiny than the team is used to.
    • I tried to pay attention to Omri Casspi's play tonight. For once his shot was off - going 2-10 overall. But I thought he added plenty of value to the team even when he wasn't putting the ball in the bucket. He did an excellent job on the glass and helped keep the ball moving around nicely on the perimeter, ending up with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Defensively he more than held his own when matched up against Nicholson, who is also something of a stretch four. He was posed one or two problems by the bigger Jason Maxiell, but overall I was very encouraged by his play and he definitely looks like a legitimate option for minutes at the power forward. He and Garcia worked very well together defensively - frequently they would combine to trap Casspi's man on the baseline to good effect and the Rockets were able to force several turnovers that way.
    • In the second quarter we got to see Reggie Williams' first action in a Rockets uniform. He showed plenty of effort on defence and looked to have good instincts on that end - I thought he made solid decisions about when to gamble for steals, for example. He was matched up with Oladipo and occasionally struggled to contain the younger man's speed, but my impression was that overall he was solid on that end. Offensively he showed a willingness to take the three point shot when he was open, but I didn't see a whole lot more from him to be excited about. He's got a lot of ground to make up after missing the first three games, and I think he'll have to be a bit more dynamic than he was in this outing to have a chance of staying on the roster.
    • D-Mo had a horror show in the second quarter. He couldn't seem to do anything right, whether it was unnecessary off ball fouls or throwing in-bounds passes straight to the other team. Two turnovers and a couple of missed box outs rounded out an awful showing. He did manage to grab a couple of offensive boards and sunk a three (there were two other misses from range though), but overall it was an evening I'm sure he'd rather forget. The impression I get is that Motiejunas is prone to extended funks like this, especially when something goes wrong for him early. I can't imagine the coaching staff are going to be comfortable letting him anywhere near the starting spot until he sorts it out. Consistency is what you want from your starting unit, and that is not Donatas' middle name just yet.
    • Before this game, Aaron Brooks was one of the players I felt shouldn't be on the roster come the start of the season. However tonight he went some way towards changing my mind. In the past I've felt like he was too ball dominant and didn't allow the offence to develop, but here he was able to get some flow going and found a better balance between distributing and looking for his own shot. I was especially impressed by his passing - he set up some great looks, many of which came off very pretty whipped passes. He was able to get Motiejunas free very easily in a pick-and-pop type play and found him often. It could be that he was able to get into a better rhythm by being the only PG on the court. In previous outings he has tended to play as part of dual-PG lineups, but with Lin being out he was handed the reins more completely. Whatever the reason, I'm glad to see him showing signs that he's worth keeping around - more competition for places is always a good thing!
    • Late in the game, E'tawn Moore led a rally that brought the Magic within 2 and gave them a shot of stealing it late. It was initially Canaan's job to stay in front of him but after a couple of possessions they had to switch him and Brooks because Isaiah really struggled to deal with Moore's speed. It looks as though Canaan is going to have to put in some work to get to the point where he can live with the speed of the NBA game. (You may or may not remember that Moore was actually a Houston Rocket for a brief while in the 2012 offseason. He looked pretty good here!)
    • With the game suddenly close as time winded down, the Rockets opted to foul up three. It's one of those enduring debates that has never quite been resolved one way or the other. Personally I dislike it unless you have a lot of confidence in the free-throw shooting abilities of the players you have on the court as it relies on your team being able to knock them down if need be. As it was, Solomon Jones made one of two and the Magic sent Covington to the line to ice the game.
    • Some curios:
      • Somehow Harden has been able to record exactly 21 points in every game so far, and he continued his unnerving consistency tonight despite only playing 18 minutes. Even after a season of watching him at work it's still uncanny how easily he racks up the points. It seems to me that he has been relying on his outside shot for his scoring more than he did last year, but that might just be because for the time being it's going in at a 50% clip.
      • In the third quarter the Rockets put out a lineup of Beverley-Brewer-Garcia-Casspi-Jones. A couple of times you could catch all five of them standing outside the three point line!
      • In one of the timeouts they showed a clip of Daryl Morey doing some Eminem karaoke with Canaan, Covington and Smith. It cracked me up! You just don't see most GMs being that willing to make a fool of themselves.
      • The Magic put on a full-court press for the last three minutes of the game. Not something you see all that often at the NBA level. It didn't really work very well - the Rockets were able to advance the ball without too much trouble.

    In summary, I think this was a good opportunity for McHale to try out a different starting combination, one that has great potential going forward. The team played well despite missing a few key faces, and a lot of the backup bench guys got their chance at some more substantial minutes. In short, a perfect pre-season game!

  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Sir Thursday I totally agree. this story sounds like something taken out of context

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    Did anyone else see the article where Dwight said he was hurt or offended that Orlando used his number?

    Seems to me like a few soundbites taken out of context and then blown up to further the "man-child out of touch with reality" story the media like to peddle.

    There's an article from the Orlando Sentinel here. According to it he was asked: "Can you envision the Magic retiring your jersey one day?" Now given that he took them to the NBA finals, it seems fair enough for him to answer "Yes" to that question. I'm not sure it's realistic given the fan's perspective on his departure, but I can see why he said it.

    There's also a second one here that has the quote about being upset about Harris having #12. But it makes no mention of the question Howard was asked or the context in which the answer came. I bet when he answered yes to the above question someone followed up with "How did you feel about the Magic giving Tobias Harris your number so soon after you leaving then?" At which point given his answer to the previous question he kind of has to say something along the linese of "Well, given that I'd want my jersey retired, it's a bit disappointing."

    I don't tend to trust stories like this unless I get the full context of the interview from the reporters. Otherwise, they're probably just looking for whatever they can spin something compelling out of.

    ST

  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago Yeah I saw that, he kinda has a point (not like Orlando has had a load of great players) but it probably would have been better if he left that topic alone. Instead of making it into a sour grapes situation.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago Did anyone else see the article where Dwight said he was hurt or offended that Orlando used his number?
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    I'm interested to see how Vucevic plays. Everyone was raving about him last season, but the impression I got (admittedly in limited viewing opportunities) was that he took far too many long twos. He seemed to take them too early in the shot-clock for how low percentage a shot they are, and also didn't seem to make very many. I wonder if he'll still be doing that now that they have a few of their steadier veteran presences on the court (in Nelson and Afflalo). As Blake says, he's got a pretty tough matchup tonight.

    ST

    I agree with your view............I'm interested to see if Vucevic is a decent player on a bad team getting overblown stats or if he is the real deal. he kind of flew under the radar last year. I need to see more of him

  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    I'm interested to see how Vucevic plays. Everyone was raving about him last season, but the impression I got (admittedly in limited viewing opportunities) was that he took far too many long twos. He seemed to take them too early in the shot-clock for how low percentage a shot they are, and also didn't seem to make very many. I wonder if he'll still be doing that now that they have a few of their steadier veteran presences on the court (in Nelson and Afflalo). As Blake says, he's got a pretty tough matchup tonight.

    ST

  • tombrokeoff says 1 YEAR ago

    ill be at the game. pretty excited even if its just the preseason.

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