3 things to watch out for, odds and prediction
The Orlando Magic begin a five-game road trip against the Houston Rockets in a battle between two young teams in search of their identity as a rebuild begins.
Orlando Magic (5-18) vs. Houston Rockets (5-16)
Time / TV: 8 p.m. / Bally Sports Florida
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Line via WynnBet: Rockets by 2.5
Tickets: $ 10 to $ 200 on StubHub
Series of the 2022 season: Tonight in Houston; February 25 in Orlando
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The Houston Rockets have understood a few things. They have five wins just like the Orlando Magic, but they have four in their last five games. More than that, the Rockets seem to have a distinctive style – something akin to balls against the wall, going as fast as they can and putting pressure on the defense upon reaching the foul line.
Where the Magic are ahead of any statistical measure, the Rockets are the first in pace and rate of free throws. It suggests a distinctive style of play. Even though the team is still one of the worst offensive teams in the league with it (even worse than the Magic now).
Houston will have some injury issues, however – Christian Wood is likely with a sprained right ankle, Kevin Porter Jr. is questionable with a left thigh contusion and Jalen Green is out with left hamstring strain. And like the Magic, the Rockets aren’t a team that can afford too many injuries. It’s not the Oklahoma City Thunder (the last two teams beaten by the Houston Rockets).
3 keys to watch out for
4th Quarter Magic
The Orlando Magic have a weird statistical quirk working for them. The team remain one of the best teams in the fourth quarter in the league with a net score of +9.0 in the final quarter. It is really good. The Magics tend to finish games strong. Of course, this regardless of the final score.
Orlando’s biggest problem is getting to this fourth quarter. The team has played in just 26 clutch minutes in nine games (4-5) so far this season. It is the 24th of the championship. So Orlando has been playing in tighter games since the last time we inquired about this.
But here’s the secret sauce: The Magic has a net rating of +43.8 in those limited âclutchâ games so far this season. It just follows the Phoenix Suns (and their incredible 18-game winning streak). The Orlando Magic showed a lot of poise on both sides as they beat the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. This team seems to perform well in the clutch.
This Magic team should have some confidence in their ability to win. They just need to get into the fourth quarter and keep the game competitive.
Turning their corner
Every team in the NBA will go through a period of great success. It is simply the nature of the league. They are all very good players. And even the most inconsistent teams find pockets of solid play. The Orlando Magic will have their time (again, just look at the schedule at the end of the season, there are some wins to be had if this team grows as we anticipate and hope for).
The Rockets are going through that little push right now. Houston has won its last four games after losing 15 straight games. They are seeing this surge, although Jalen Green is still struggling to adjust to the league and there are some loyal veterans leading the way.
Shooting well and moving the ball helps a lot. The Rockets have struggled on the ground throughout the season so far, but they’ve shot better than 50 percent from the ground in three of four games in that winning streak. Their attendance rate in these four victories is also over 60%.
It’s a great time for the Rockets. they play with clarity and determination. They also get good energy from their bench. Houston has found a balance and a rhythm.
The Mo / Carter combo
The Orlando Magic always go against the grain with their roster, playing Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter together. There have been plenty of times he’s been successful and plenty of times he’s struggled, forcing the Magic into an area defense.
In the last two games, the Magic entered a deep hole early on as the teams accentuated their advantage with dynamic wings at 4 to beat either Bamba or Carter. Tobias Harris (17 points, 8 for 20 shots) and Aaron Gordon (17 points, 7 for 12 shots) both had days on the field particularly early in the game. Houston has a ton of big dynamics in Christian Wood and Jae’Sean Tate in particular who will test the Magic’s speed and attention.
It’s a tough game for them. And Orlando has done a lot of work trying to make this unconventional duo work. So is he?
The Carter / Bamba combination has a net score of -5.9 points per 100 possessions with an offensive rating of 99.7 overall. In Wednesday’s game, the duo posted a net score of 11.6, gaining ground in the third and fourth quarters. But during Anthony’s absence, the Magic had a net rating of -16.2 with the duo on the ground.
Everyone felt that this group might not be a long term solution for the team despite their best efforts. The Magic’s preferred starting lineup is still strong. But with Jalen Suggs out and some tough clashes ahead, the Magic may soon shift to a more conventional roster.