Houston Rockets 93, Orlando Magic 83

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After watching the Rockets play for the second time in three nights, I honestly hope I don’t have to watch them again for the rest of the season. The Rockets beat the Magic almost the same way they beat Portland on Sunday night. They jumped out to an early lead and answered with a big basket every time they needed one. Once the lead was above 10 in the fourth quarter, I knew the game was pretty much over. Rick Adelman has done a nice job of improving Houston’s offense, while keeping a lot of the same defensive intensity that the team had under Jeff Van Gundy. It’s hard to really pinpoint what exactly Orlando’s problem was tonight, but it seemed like they just played exactly how the Rockets wanted to play: slow. This is a tough loss for the Magic and they pretty much have to win out in order to beat out Boston for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Three keys revisited: 1. Get Dwight Howard going. No. Once again it was tough sledding for Dwight against “The Great Wall” (a nickname I heard 1,000 times during Houston’s game against Portland on Sunday). 2. Score in transition. No. Houston controlled the pace from start to finish and the Magic could never really get out and run. 3. Rafer Alston, hit some shots. Yes. Rafer came alive in the third quarter. You could tell this one meant something to Skip, as he jawed with Brooks almost every time down the floor. Alston finished the game with 15 points, including three three-pointers. Key figures: 39% — Orlando’s shooting percentage from the field at halftime. Not too good. 14 — The number of technical fouls Dwight Howard now has on the season. Two more and it’s an automatic one-game suspension. -11 — Hedo Turkoglu’s +/- for the game. In fact, every single player finished in the minus category. That shows just how well Houston played tonight. 0 — Minutes played by Mickael Pietrus on Tuesday night. According to the announcers he was a late game scratch, but hopefully it was just precautionary because the Magic really need Peaches for the playoffs. Magic’s best: Rashard Lewis. What a game for Rashard tonight. I’m so used to yelling at my TV because he never helps Dwight on the boards. Tonight? Rashard finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, both team-highs. Now if he can hit the boards on the consistent basis we could have something here. Magic’s worst: Defending Yao Ming. The big man from China turned in a dominating performance tonight, finishing with 20 points and 16 rebounds. It’s just so tough to stop Yao when he catches the ball with deep low post position. When he shoots that jump hook, it’s really unblockable, even for Dwight Howard. Defending Dwight: For some reason, Yao Ming seems to give Dwight all kinds of problems defensively. Oh wait, I know the reason Yao gives Dwight so many problems, because he’s 7-foot-6 and weighs 350 pounds. The Rockets seemed to have a pretty good game plan for slowing down Dwight, sending Shane Battier and Ron Artest to double-team once he touched the ball. Dwight finished with just 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field. It was another tough night for Dwight at the free throw line, as he went just 3-for-9. Random thoughts: *It was nice to see Carl Landry make his return to the line up for the Rockets tonight. Even though he put up some points, any time a guy almost gets killed by some crazy person, you can’t help but applaud when he makes his return to the court. *How stoked are you for the new events center to open? I get excited every time I drive by the site and it was good to see the update during tonight’s halftime show. *I think Ron Artest will be the eventual undoing of the Rockets. Without T-Mac around, Artest feels the need to show that he can get it done on the offensive end. And while he occasionally does some nice things on offense, he often dribbles for way too long and is also known to throw up terrible shots early in possessions. *I love Aaron Brooks. That’s all. Up next: The Magic return home to take on the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at 7 p.m. The Griz have won four of their last five games, but blew a tough one on Tuesday night against the Blazers. Memphis led by as much as 18 points at various points throughout the game before giving it away in the closing seconds. This is a tough back-to-back for both teams with the Magic flying home from Houston late on Tuesday night, and Memphis traveling as well. Expect both teams to come out with heavy legs in the early-going.