Could this result be real? Could the Magic have made it all the way back from a 25-point deficit in a game the Rockets were tearing up the interior defense with the pick and roll and eating the Magic's defense alive?
They did not quite make it all the way back. They never got closer than five points, with Nikola Vucevic failing each time to make a shot that would have pulled the Magic closer. A 25-point deficit and porous defense for the majority of the game outweighed the fight Orlando always has to get back into the game as Houston pulled out a 111-103 victory at Toyota Center on Monday.
The Magic are always fighters. They never gave up even after quickly falling behind 32-14 in the first quarter and giving up more than 60 points in the first half. The Rockets did not seem to need James Harden or Chandler Parsons to pull the Orlando defense apart.
Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik were the main culprits defensively. Lin scored 19 points and 11 assists and Asik had a career-high 22 points and 18 rebounds. It seemed that every time the Rockets brought the ball down the floor, they could get into the lane and pull Vucevic or Tobias Harris away from his man and simply dump it down to the open man underneath the basket. The Magic did not help the helper and that gave Omer Asik a lot of free reign in the paint and enabled him to get good rebounding position.
That left a big hill for the Magic to climb. One they dutifully tried to ascend like Sisyphus rolling that boulder up the hill (no matter how large it became or how many times it rolled back down the hill).
Orlando cut the lead to 11 at one point in the second quarter, only to see it expand back out to 20. Then the team got the lead down to 12 again in the third quarter, only to give up seven unanswered and see it go back to 19 points.
The Magic just kept plugging away until finally they could break through. Sure, it helped that Kevin McHale opted to leave Asik and Lin on the bench for almost the entire fourth quarter but the Magic continued to fight. They did not concede the game at all. That is the character of this team, even if they do not quite have the talent level or consistency to win on most night.
There was a ton of growth in this game.
Maurice Harkless scored a career-high 28 points, making 10 of his 18 shots. He was aggressive going toward the rim and confident with his shot. He did not play afraid and was active around the basket for put backs.
Tobias Harris was one of three players with a triple double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He missed all six of his 3-point attempts however. Udrih had 17 points and 10 assists. Vucevic added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
He continued to get re-acclimated after missing four games, shooting 5 of 19 from the floor. He rimmed out a couple of post shots and looked like he was still regaining his rhythm. The Magic still turned to him toward the end of the game against Greg Smith and could not crack him to bring the Magic within one possession of the lead.
Orlando played a great offensive game. When the defense was played with intensity, the Magic were pretty tough to crack. The margin for error was too small and the discipline defensively was not there all night. And Houston took advantage in a big way offensively early on.
The deficit was too big to climb out of. The intensity and mindset was not there from the beginning. And 48 minutes was not enough time for the Magic to complete this comeback.