The Rockets should be worried about the Magic.
Last season, Houston fell behind early in Orlando and threw the game away late. In Houston, the Magic held strong with the Rockets and it took a huge fourth quarter for the Rockets to pull away. When it was all said and done, Orlando either outplayed or played equal to the Rockets for seven out of eight total quarters.
That's not to say the Magic are a terrible team that the Rockets should beat if they have at least an average game. That sentiment would be false. As of this writing, the Magic are 0-3 and playing the Pelicans. However, it bears mentioning that the Magic have lost those three games by a total of 9 points to three teams expected to make runs in the playoffs: Oklahoma City, Chicago, and Washington.
The Magic brought in Scott Skiles this offseason as head coach and he's tasked with developing young players and improving a defense that finished 25th in efficiency last season.
Regardless, Houston shouldn't be overlooking anyone at this point. Hopefully, the taste of a first win becomes a drug that pushes them to get more and more wins.
Tip off is at 7pm CST.
Point Guard: Ty Lawson vs. Elfrid Payton
This is definitely a matchup in favor of the Rockets, but Payton can be a pest and be just good enough to tip the scales in a game. He'll inevitably make a few plays that frustrate the opposition but Houston will leave him to shoot as much as he wants.
For Lawson, he just has to keep attacking and acting like he's still in Denver. The Rockets need him to take some of the pressure off Harden and allow him to take a couple of possessions off on offense.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Victor Oladipo
I've made my love of Oladipo well-known. He arrived at Indiana as an athletic bundle of energy and now he's making plays all over the place for the Magic and defending the opposition's best wing. He'll be hounding Harden for the majority of the night. He still has a way to go on offense, but his confidence and ability are growing before our eyes.
(Quietly hopes that Harden has figured things out)
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Evan Fournier
Fournier didn't receive an extension from the Magic so he'll be a free agent at the end of the season. Other than that, he can shoot and is a decent defender. Oh, and he put up 30 in New Orleans last night.
Ariza continues to struggle from the field, but he had his best shooting game of the season against the Thunder.
He went 3-8.
Power Forward: Marcus Thornton vs. Tobias Harris
"Okay AK, you've gone crazy. Thornton is not a power forward. Put down the laptop and check into a mental health institution," you say.
"No it's fine. I know Thornton isn't really a power forward. It's just that the Rockets will probably be without Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas tonight so I have to put their replacement into this position," I respond.
In reality, Thornton and Brewer will split time here or at the 3 with Ariza guarding Harris.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Nikola Vucevic
For all of our frustrations with Dwight and his injuries and his stubbornness in wanting to post up when he's horribly inefficient at it, there is one universal truth concerning the Houston big man:
The Rockets' defense is better when Dwight plays. Like, way better.
Mean, Nik Vucevic is averaging 3.3 blocks per game and has a better post/elbow game than Dwight.
Rockets: Corey Brewer, Patrick Beverley, Clint Capela, Jason Terry, Montrezl Harrell
Magic: Aaron Gordon, Channing Frye, Jason Smith, Shabazz Napier, C.J. Watson, Mario Hezonja
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