ENERGY BOOST: Rockets use late game spurt and Chris Paul's return to defeat the Magic 103 - 98
Updated: Jan 28, 2019
Have you ever been called in to work earlier than you are use to going? It seems like your entire routine is off. Your coffee doesn't taste the same. You can't get your seat adjusted right at your desk. Your day is just not the same until your normal work time finally hits.
That may have been the case at the Toyota Center tonight as the 6 pm start time was an hour and a half earlier than the Rockets are use to starting and it showed. Although Houston defeated the Orlando Magic 103 - 98 in front of a home crowd of 18,055, they were down by 16 points in the first quarter. Their energy and intensity level was very low as they gave up 34 points, which included 11 points and 9 rebounds to Magic starting center Nikola Vucevic.
"They (Orlando Magic) have some very good offensive players and we let them go, and we didn't have the necessary energy to start the game. When we don't have the energy, we struggle because we are little (team size) and if you are little and without energy, you are in trouble," said Rockets Head Coach Mike D'Antoni on why Houston got off to such a sluggish start.
Houston welcomed back their superstar point guard Chris Paul who had been out for 17 games with a hamstring injury and he provided the boost they needed even though he is on a minutes restriction until his health improves more. Paul finished the game with 12 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals.
"For me, I've been out so long, you just want to try and get some type of rhythm and push the pace, and make sure guys are getting involved," said Paul after the game.
Defense down the stretch was was the key to victory for Houston as they limited the red hot Vucevic to 8 points the rest of the game and held Orlando to a mere 37 points in the second half (16 in the 4th). The Rockets switched up their defense and began communicating more effectively with each other. It was an adjustment that coach D'Antoni knew had to be made.
"We did a better job of double teaming when we needed to and a better job of switching and that all just comes from being aware, communicating, and energy," D'Antoni told reporters after the game.
The Rockets were led by the 2017 reigning M.V.P. James Harden who finished with 40 points and eleven rebounds and seemed to be a handful down the stretch for Magic defenders. His signature step back jumper with 30.5 seconds left in the game turned out to be the nail in the coffin.
"When a guy gets 40 (points) against you, I don't know if you did a good job," said Orlando's guard/forward Evan Fournier.
Houston will be back in action against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night at the Toyota Center.