The Houston Rockets didn’t get their first lead of the game until there were just four minutes left in the fourth quarter, but they got 40 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks from James Harden, who had a three, a block, and a vicious step-back jumper down the stretch to close out a 103-98 win over the Orlando Magic.
For a while, however, it looked like this would be an ugly Houston loss. The Rockets were down 34-18 after one period, with a non-existent defense and no one scoring outside of The Beard, who had 15 of Houston’s 18 in the quarter.
The Rockets gradually turned things around, however, particularly on the defensive end, as they gave up just 37 second-half points, including only 16 in the fourth quarter. Overall, they held the Magic to just 40 percent shooting on the night and forced 13 turnovers.
In addition, Harden started getting help. Eric Gordon began to hit from deep, and he finished with 16 points on 4-8 from beyond the arc. Chris Paul, who looked clearly rusty in the first half, began the find his groove as the game went on and started dropping dimes, and he hit two threes to spark the Houston offense when The Beard was out. He finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals in 25 minutes of action.
The Rockets also got another big night from Kenneth Faried, as he finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, and though he mis-communicated with Harden a few times underneath the bucket, he’s been a willing rim runner in the pick-and-roll and has been better than expected on defense.
Houston also got two big shots from Gerald Green in the second half, and though he finished with just 6 points, he was clutch with the game on the line.
The Magic were led by Aaron Gordon, who finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists, Nikola Vucevic, who finished with 19 points and 17 boards, Evan Fournier, who had 18 points, and Terrence Ross, who had 15.
The Rockets move to 29-20 on the season with their third consecutive victory, and they’ll take tomorrow off before returning to the court on Tuesday night at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.