The Rockets have lost to four teams this year with losing records: the Pistons, Lakers, Jazz, and Magic.
That game in Orlando was everything you dread in a trap game. The Rockets came in on an extended winning streak and came out flat. Orlando was pumped up and ready to take on the Rockets after previously beating the Chicago Bulls.
Orlando grabbed a big lead, Houston came back and led by 4 in the second quarter and then by 3 late in the fourth. But the Magic ended the game on a 14-6 run and left Houston smarting from defeat.
So the message is clear: don't treat the Magic lightly. Houston's next four games are extremely winnable, and the Rockets could head into their game against New Orleans on a 5-game winning streak. We can look ahead, but hopefully Houston isn't. And if their previous rematches against the Lakers and Pistons are any indication, they won't.
Tip off is at 7pm CST.
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Elfrid Payton
Peyton was always in the right spot at the right time in the previous matchup. Every loose ball seemed to end up in his hands. You can call that luck or you can call it instincts. I guess it depends which team you root for. But luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and Payton was prepared for sure.
Payton registered a 13/10/9 against the Cavs, but his "leap" started when he was handed the keys to the offense. Since the coaching switch in Orlando, he's become a player whose present is giving us a glimpse at his bright future. The Rockets will have their hands full with him tonight.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Victor Oladipo
Before last season, TNT made a promo about possible futures. Here it is.
Starting at the 0:40 mark, the "prediction" is James Harden winning the MVP. They cut in a part of Harden's award speech from Sixth Man of the Year.
I think it would be really cool that if (when?) Harden wins MVP, he wears the same jacket and drops that same exact line.
"Obviously this is an individual award. But I couldn't have done it without my teammates."
That would be baller.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Tobias Harris
Harris wasn't available the last time these teams played, and his availability today could hurt Houston.
Harris has dealt with multiple injuries this year but is rounding back into form. In his last 10 games he's averaging 17 points and shooting 47%. Not bad at all for a guy that many considered to be inefficient early in his career.
On the flip side, Ariza has suddenly come on for Houston and looks more aggressive. Houston desperately needs that from him when Harden is double or triple-teamed.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Dewayne Dedmon
Channing Frye went 0-3 in his last game. Looks like he's in the perfect mode to go off against a team that can't defend stretch 4s!
Oh he's not even starting? Whatever.
Dedmon is in his second year in the league out of USC. Um...and he's not Channing Frye.
Advantage: Rockets due to Jones Corollary
Center: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Nikola Vucevic
Dude who can go 22/15 vs. Dude who is so dead tired he's lucky to go 10/7.
I've wanted Dwight back for so long because he's Dwight Howard. He can rebound and defend and block shots and post up and do everything the Rockets need their centers to do. D-Mo did those in spurts but it's not fair to expect that from him long term.
Now I'm excited for Dwight to come back because it means more time to rest for D-Mo. The Rockets will need him in the playoffs, and running him through the wringer now is not helping.
Rockets: Propeller Plane, Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, Joey Dorsey
Magic: Aaron Gordon, Andrew Nicholson, Channing Frye, Maurice Harkless, Luke Ridnour
Advantage: Channing Frye
Prediction: Rockets get their revenge 102-88.
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