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Houston Rockets vs. Orlando Magic game preview

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NBA: Houston Rockets at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The return of Chris Paul is the big story tonight as the Rockets welcome the Orlando Magic to the Toyota Center to finish off their season series.

I know that when most people think of games that Houston let slip away, the Brooklyn or Dallas games will come to mind first. But for me, the Orlando game is right up there.

In all of those games, Houston held a lead and then watched in slip away as they lost any semblance of offensive flow and their opponents refused to miss shots even when tightly contested. In the Orlando game, it hurt even more because Houston had been in control throughout the game without ever being able to throw the knockout punch. At the time, Houston was missing Eric Gordon and Chris Paul (and lost Clint Capela during the game), so just maintaining a lead over anyone was a difficult proposition. But for Houston to own 43 minutes of the game only to watch it slip away in the final five was tough to swallow.

The Rockets led 105-98 with 4:31 left, and then proceeded to watch Orlando close on a 18-6 run. The Magic scored on seven straight possessions and didn’t miss an actual shot until the game was in hand. It came from everywhere: Nikola Vucevic had a dunk, Terrence Ross hit a long two and was fouled, Ross hit a triple, Evan Fournier hit a triple, D.J. Augustin hit a triple, Vucevic made a bunny, and then Aaron Gordon completed the world’s slowest Eurostep to score the final bucket.

It didn’t help Houston that James Harden had easily his worst night during this phenomenal stretch. Orlando didn’t show him any looks on defense he hadn’t seen before, but The Beard went 1-17 from deep. After the following game in which he dropped 57 on the Memphis Grizzlies in which he shot a respectable 6-15 (40%) from deep and was reminded of his horrid night in Orlando, Harden said, “Orlando got lucky.”

I wonder if the Magic will get lucky again tonight.

Tip-off is at 6pm CT