ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Magic and the Rockets had some rust to shake off after the All-Star break, but the Magic found their stride in the second half.
Orlando Magic starting lineup: Cole Anthony, Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner, Mo Bamba, Jalen Suggs
Magic head coach Mosley said pregame that his team was “so excited” to play again at home in front of the fans after the All-Star game. Rockets head coach mentioned pregame the key lesson learned prior to the All-Star break for playing against the Magic, a team “young like ours,” is to reduce turnovers. That said, as with any transition, some kinks are bound to appear. While the Rockets didn’t cause too many turnovers at the start, they were a bit wobbly, and the Magic…well…just read on.
The Magic were already fouling early in the first quarter and not quite completing their shots. The Rockets had challenges completing some of theirs as well, though they did complete enough three-pointers to create a sizeable 9-2 lead on the Magic. Three of the first few fouls of the game were on Jalen Suggs, who was promptly switched out for RJ Hampton. Mo Bamba got two under his belt as well, all within the first three minutes of the first quarter.
To stop the bleeding on points, the Magic also brought in Gary Harris, Terrence Ross, and Chuma Okeke. At the end of the first, the Magic lagged 33-27.
The Magic were 10-21 (47.6 percent) on field goals and 4-6 (66.7 percent) on free throws in the first quarter. By contrast, the Rockets were 12-24 on field goals (50 percent) and 4-7 (57.1 percent) on free throws. On threes, the Magic were 3-8 (37.5 percent) while the Rockets were 5-11 (45.5 percent).
With barely 90 seconds left in the first half, #3 (Chuma Okeke) came through with a baseline three to give the Magic the lead 54-51. Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. followed up with dunks to stretch the lead to 58-51 by halftime.
Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke (off the bench) led the Magic in scoring in the first half, each contributing 10 points. Okeke also put in seven rebounds and two assists while Anthony made three assists. Both made one steal.
Jae’Sean Tate and Jalen Green led the Rockets in scoring with seven points each. Tate was 3-4 on field goals and 2-4 on three pointers with two assists and two steals. Green was 2-4 on both field goals and threes.
On the plus side for the Magic, they maintained their lead in the third quarter. By 5:46 left in the third, they led 71-68. In the course of just one minute (with a couple of timeouts and a foul challenge), the Rockets tied back up at 74-all thanks to free throws and successful points in the paint.
Once they did, though, the Magic answered with two scores: Wendell Carter Jr.’s alley-oop dunk from Franz Wagner’s assist and a bank jump shot from Chuma Okeke, making the score 78-74.
With one minute left in the third, the Rockets managed to catch up again and tie the score at 83, thanks to Schroder’s jump shot and Kenyon Martin Jr.’s dunk from Schroder’s assist. Chuma Okeke answered with a three again, though. They kept the 86-83 lead heading into the fourth.
Mo Bamba led off the scoring for the Magic in the fourth quarter with a putback dunk and jump shot. Houston’s Alperen Sengun scored with a layup in between. The frenetic energy hit a brick wall with Mo Bamba’s foul, but the final quarter pushed on as both teams battled for the lead, which the Magic had at 93-90 with less than nine minutes left in the game.
The Magic lucked out with a foul from Houston, sending RJ Hampton to the line for two, which he nailed, followed by a jump shot by Terrence Ross, notching the Magic up by four points, 97-93. Houston’s Green scored a three from Sengun’s assist, by RJ Hampton dunked it in on the Magic’s next possession, thrusting the Magic into the bonus: 102-93.
Mo Bamba fouling (again) gave the Rockets some momentum with Sengun nailing both free throws at the line. Wendell Carter Jr. answered with a dunk, but Houston got on the board to close the gap quite a bit, with Jae’Sean Tate’s layup and Jalen Green’s back to back field goals, bringing them into the bonus 104-101 with five minutes left in the game.
Jalen Suggs was subbed in, but fouled as soon as he was in play, which happened every single time he was brought onto the court throughout the game. Cole Anthony followed suit, and his foul sent Christian Wood to the line for two free throws, getting one.
Okeke came through clutch again in the fourth, scoring three consecutive times: a layup before Orlando called timeout, then a jump shot and a three pointer, sending the Magic to 111-104. Franz Wagner followed shortly thereafter with a layup, and with 45.8 seconds left in the game and Wendell Carter at the free throw line, the Magic led 113-104. Carter got both.
The final few minutes saw Houston beginning to fray at the edges with fouls. While Jalen Green answered with a three pointer, Eric Gordon fouled, sending Gary Harris to the line. Harris also got both.
Houston’s Christian Wood answered with a dunk, but Harrison Mathews fouled, sending Franz Wagner to the line for two, both of which he scored.
The Magic won 119-111.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | email@example.com