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Houston Rockets vs. Orlando Magic game preview

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic started the season 8-4, sporting wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers. They were riding high and announced their presence in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Since then, they’re 4-22. Either the tank is on or they have come crashing down to Earth. Either way, they’ve played Houston tough the last few years. With Houston potentially looking past this game to the Warriors game on Thursday, this game could be ripe for a wake-up call for the boys in red (or black, or white, or whatever color they’re wearing tonight).

That’s not to say Orlando doesn’t have talent or ability; they certainly possess those traits. Rockets fans won’t soon forget Jonathon Simmons. Plus, D.J. Augustin has had some remarkable performances against Houston. Evan “Never Google” Fournier has range and Houston has no one with the speed and size combination to stay in front of Aaron Gordon. If he decides he wants to have a big game, he absolutely can.

For Houston, tonight begins “Life Without James,” a television show you don’t love but can’t help but watch.

The real balancing act for Mike D’Antoni will be balancing minutes with James Harden out. Harden’s durability has been a staple of his tenure in Houston and MDA has depended on it for the last year-and-a-half. We’ve seen that MDA trusts Gerald Green in big spots, and he’ll need him now.

As a coach, my (and most of the fanbase’s) biggest gripe with MDA has been his minutes allocation. With Chris Paul and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute out, MDA shortened his rotation and ran his starters into the ground. After an offseason discussing that the reason behind the trade for CP3 was to lessen Harden’s burden, MDA hasn’t learned his lesson about how the whole team needs that assistance. Houston peaked in December last season, too. Will we look at this season’s team the same way?

What Houston needs more than anything is an easy, low heart rate game. Maybe Orlando could be that game. Or maybe the Lakers game was the eye of the storm and the Rockets are still in the spiral.

Tip-off is at 6pm CT