Third Quarter Blitz Paces Magic Past Rockets


Stan Van Gundy must be tired of seeing his team put in a half-game’s worth of effort and get away with it. The Magic may be forming some interesting habits, but there is no denying they are getting the job done. A season-high eight-game win streak is certainly getting the job done, even if all the wins were not pretty.

Orlando came out of the locker room and just steamrolled Houston. The Magic scored 39 points in the period and turned a three-point halftime lead into a 20-point one thanks to a 17-0 run. Ryan Anderson was the major culprit, scoring most of his 16 points in that period.

The Magic eventually stampeded the Rockets for a 110-95 win Friday at Amway Center.

Orlando really got the ball moving better in the third quarter after an uninspired effort on both ends of the floor in the first half. Dwight Howard was saddled with foul trouble throughout the opening two periods and seemed to settle down in the second half. An adjustment on Luis Scola and some more focus defensively helped Orlando get the breathing room to pull away.

But a big difference was just a different mentality on offense. Orlando was more willing to attack in the second half and it started with Jameer Nelson.

Nelson finished the night with 10 points and eight assists and did a lot of that damage in the third quarter. His penetration and ability to drive and dish made a huge difference in increasing the energy level for this team. He really broke the spirit of the Rockets in the third quarter as Kyle Lowry just could not contain Nelson and frustration set in for the young point guard.

Dwight Howard was saddled with foul trouble and had to do a lot of his work in the third quarter in scoring 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Just having him on the floor made a difference (as it always does). Van Gundy was sure to point out a lot of Anderson and Brandon Bass’ (18 points) scoring came off of decisions to stay with or leave Howard.

That is what happens with the big fella.

Howard had five fouls in the game and a lot of them were lazy fouls. Few of them were aggressive fouls where he was challenging shots. It was a very frustrating night for Howard. Jordan Hill got pretty constant double team help to poke and prod the ball away from Howard. He was not having a good night.

But his teammates did plenty to pick him up and pick up the slack.

Bass had 18 points and helped shut down Luis Scola after his strong first half. Scola had 14 points, but never could get going in the second half thanks to Orlando’s constant double teaming and quick rotations. Bass stopped biting on Scola’s fakes as well.

But when Bass hit foul trouble, it was Anderson and Earl Clark who picked up the energy and force in the paint. Clark was very aggressive going at the basket and trying to score. He had eight points in this one and earned high praise from Van Gundy for the energy he brought to the game tonight and the potential he continued to show. Van Gundy said Clark is still learning the team’s defensive principles.

Tonight was one of those games where you see exactly what kind of player Clark could be.

A lot of credit should go to Orlando’s defense in the end in this one. The Magic were not playing well defensively at all in the first half. Van Gundy was very upset with numerous back-door cuts the Rockets were able to get.

It did not help that Kevin Martin was absolutely unconscious in scoring 17 of his 27 points in the first half. He cooled off considerably as Orlando increased its energy level on the defensive end.

Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson did a good job keeping Orlando in this one as the defense sputtered. Richardson missed only one of his five 3-point attempts and scored 18 points while Turkoglu had 12 points and six assists, using his ability to create offense when needed and then being Orlando’s playmaker.

This was another one of those wins where the Magic did not need to do much more than they did. The habits that are forming are what is the troublesome part. Orlando won by playing half a game for the third consecutive night. That will not work against Dallas tomorrow night and during this upcoming road trip.