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Houston Rockets vs. Orlando Magic game preview

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

We joke a lot here about tanking and wanting the Houston Rockets to lose every game.

Okay, fine. I joke about it and everyone else rolls their eyes.

That being said, the performance Houston had against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night was nothing short of embarrassing. We expect Houston to lose games. Losing on its own isn’t a bad thing for this iteration of the Rockets. However, losing that badly against a similarly bad team that on paper lacks your talent? That’s a problem.

We all want to see progress. I don’t care how many games Houston wins, but I do want to end the season with the feeling that the team is heading in the right direction. At this point last week, it certainly felt like the Rockets had made a leap. They had won four of six, with wins coming against a fully healthy Suns team in Phoenix, a fully healthy (to start the game) Milwaukee Bucks, and a double overtime win over a Philadelphia 76ers team with James Harden and Joel Embiid.

But it’s been one step forward and two steps back since. The Rockets decided that guarding Tyler Herro was unimportant, and they paid. Then they decided that 3-point shooting was unimportant against the Blazers and Spurs, and they paid again. Now at first, it’s easy to chalk that up to a couple of bad shooting performances, but it’s starting to become a trend that won’t end well.

Sorry for waiting this long to mention the Orlando Magic. I know that the story tonight is supposed to be “Jabari Smith Jr. vs. Paolo Banchero III” or whatever, but right now none of that really matters. What matters is seeing some spark of life from the Rockets. Because the team we saw in the second half against the Spurs isn’t a team that we’ll have much interest in moving forward.

On the injury front, the Magic are missing Jalen Suggs (ankle), Gary Harris (hamstring), Wendell Carter Jr. (foot), and Chuma Okeke (knee). Overall stud Franz Wagner is questionable with a sprained ankle.

Look at the injury report. And even with several of those players being out for multiple weeks, the Magic just reeled off a 6-game winning streak before seeing a furious comeback thwarted in Atlanta. But that shows they’re a young team with a fighting spirit. It remains to be seen if Houston has one.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest