Orlando Magic vs. Houston Rockets (April 18, 2021): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Christian Wood helped finish off the Orlando Magic as the Houston Rockets rolled to a win. Mandatory Credit: Michael Wyke/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
Christian Wood helped finish off the Orlando Magic as the Houston Rockets rolled to a win. Mandatory Credit: Michael Wyke/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic open up their final home-heavy part of the schedule as they battle a fellow team at the bottom of the standings in the Houston Rockets.

Orlando Magic (18-38) vs. Houston Rockets (14-42)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Rockets by 1
Tickets: $9-$9,300 on StubHub
2021 Season Series: Rockets 132, Magic 90 in Houston on Jan. 8; Tonight in Orlando

PaceOff. Rtg.Def. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR

OMD Prediction

By record, this does not seem like it would be a game to watch. Both the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets are lacking in top-end talent and short on veteran players. There are plenty of guys trying to prove themselves on both teams, but these are two franchises planning for their futures more than their present. The team that has the brighter future will be the one who wins the Lottery not necessarily who wins this game.

The Rockets are wildly inconsistent, just like the Magic are. But Houston undoubtedly have more intriguing offensive weapons than Orlando does. Kelly Olynyk has been on a tear since the Houston Rockets acquired him. Christian Wood is starting to get his legs back after missing time with an ankle injury. This is not the same Rockets team that lost 20 in a row. But they still can be broken down and beaten. The Magic have a wider margin for error in this game. But they can have some moments of respite and recover.

109. 38. Prediction. 104. 169

3 Keys To Watch

3-point defense

The Orlando Magic only had a lapse in concentration for about five minutes in their loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday. But in those minutes, Paul Watson went wild, hitting six 3-pointers and scoring 20 points. The Raptors turned a four-point deficit into a 15-point lead. And the Magic’s defense could not string together enough stops to get back into the game or make a run. The 3-point barrage sucked the life out of them.

Since the trade deadline, the Magic’s poor 3-point shooting has been noted — they have made the fewest 3-pointers (8.3) and shot the worst percentage (30.8-percent). Their 3-point defense has been inconsistent too. Orlando is giving up 14.8 3-pointers per game 40.8-percent shooting from deep. That is the second-worst percentage in the league since the deadline. But in their three wins, the Magic have given up 13.7 3-pointers and 39.7-percent shooting.

Their 3-point defense is not necessarily dispositive when it comes to winning or losing at this point in the season. Teams are not beating the Magic because of their 3-point shooting. But this will still be a deciding factor considering the volume of 3-pointers the Rockets make and take (14.2 makes on 38.7-percent shooting). Defending the 3-point line will be a key to the game.

Rockets’ last chance

The Houston Rockets should not be overlooked. They have some guys who can put the ball in the basket. They can spread the floor with their 3-point shooting and they can get hot in a hurry.

Kelly Olynyk is averaging 18.1 points per game on a 69.5-percent effective field goal percentage since joining the Rockets. Kevin Porter Jr. has been on a tear with 15.0 points per game on an inefficient 46.9-percent effective field goal percentage. John Wall can still wreak havoc when he gets up to speed. And Christian Wood remains one of the best surprise stories of the league.

Houston is in a position to get one of the top picks in the Draft this year. And the team’s schedule the rest of the way is not going to help. Houston plays only two more games against teams out of playoff position the rest of the way. One of those games is Sunday against the Magic. Houston is likely to wrap up one of the top odds to win the Lottery. This could well be their last chance to get a sure win and they should be motivated to take advantage of that chance and break a five-game losing streak.

What to take away

The Orlando Magic’s biggest goal for the rest of the season is to show progress and grow. They want to learn the lessons from their losses and their defeats. So what lesson should they learn from Friday’s loss? They want to be more intentional and purposeful with their play. They want to be more attentive and focused with each possession.

This is something every young team sometimes struggles to do. Getting organized has been a huge hassle for the team on top of everything with an inexperienced point guard in Cole Anthony and the team learning a new way to play completely on the fly with limited practice and court time. The Magic though have shown signs of getting better after their difficult homestand last week. The game against the Chicago Bulls showed what their effort can do and the game against the Toronto Raptors showed they can still play at a high level defensively.

Next. What the Heart & Hustle Magic can teach the 2021 team. dark

The trick will remain the attention to detail and playing with energy. Steve Clifford described the team’s second half as a “tired” half of basketball. Orlando is not winning without effort and energy. And directing that energy in a positive manner.