Magic hold off Rock­ets

Gor­don, Vuce­vic help hot Magic win back-to-back combo 3rd time this sea­son

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Roy Parry

Or­lando tops Hous­ton for sec­ond straight win against top team.

Fresh off ral­ly­ing to beat the Bos­ton Celtics, the Or­lando Magic found them­selves pulling off an­other come­back against the Hous­ton Rock­ets.

Aaron Gor­don and Nikola Vuce­vic scored 22 points apiece and Ter­rence Ross scored eight points in the fourth quar­ter as the Magic ral­lied from a late seven-point deficit to beat the Rock­ets 116-109 Sun­day night at Amway Cen­ter.

Evan Fournier fin­ished with 19 points, in­clud­ing the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:37 to play, and Ross fin­ished with 17 points for the Magic, who won the sec­ond game of their home back-to-back set.

James Harden came within one re­bound of his sev­enth triple-dou­ble of the sea­son, fin­ish­ing with 38 points, 12 as­sists and nine re­bounds. It was the 16th con­sec­u­tive game dur­ing which he has reached the 30-point mark. It was the 16th straight game he has reached the 30-point mark, ty­ing Kobe Bryant’s streak set in 2003. Those two mark the NBA’s long­est since Wilt Cham­ber­lain strung to­gether 20 such per­for­mances in 1964, ac­cord­ing to NBA sta­tis­tics.

Win­ter Park alum Austin Rivers had a happy home­com­ing of sorts, putting up 25 points on 10-of-14 shoot­ing. He was 4-of-7 from the 3-point line.

But this one be­longed to a Magic club that just wouldn’t quit.

Af­ter beat­ing Bos­ton on Satur­day night, Or­lando (19-24) swept a back-to-back combo for the third time this sea­son.

The Magic largely con­tained Harden on the perime­ter. He was just 1-of-17 from the 3-point line, but he was able to get in the lane with fre­quency. There, he ei­ther put up short floaters or lobbed the ball to team­mates, with Rock­ets cen­ter Clint Capela ben­e­fit­ing the most.

As it was Satur­day against the Celtics, the free-throw line was a key fac­tor for the Magic. They hit 25 of 28 at­tempts.

The Magic never trailed by more than eight points in the third quar­ter and used an 11-3 run dur­ing a 4:33 stretch to go ahead 86-85 on two Ross free throws at the 1:14 mark.

But the Rock­ets built a four-point lead by the end of the quar­ter, then stretched the lead to 10 early in the fourth on a floater by Rivers.

The Magic wouldn’t go away. They closed within 100-96 on a pull-up 17-footer by Ross.

It was a 105-98 deficit be­fore the Magic’s 3-point shoot­ing, driven by good ball move­ment, car­ried them late.

First Ross hit a 3 to put the Magic up 106-105. Then af­ter Harden scored in the lane, Fournier took a pass from D.J. Au­gustin and knocked down a 3 that put the Magic ahead to stay and brought a roar from the Amway Cen­ter crowd.

Au­gustin fol­lowed with an­other 3 be­fore Vuce­vic knocked down a hook shot to give the Magic a 114-107 ad­van­tage.

When the Rock­ets couldn’t con­nect from the field down the stretch, the Magic had their sec­ond straight win against a con­fer­ence-ti­tle-con­tend­ing team.

“It feels good. It feels re­ally, re­ally good,” Fournier said of the backto-back wins. “It means a lot. It means a lot to have two wins against two good teams.”

The Magic will now set their sights on Wed­nes­day’s game at De­troit. The two teams are sep­a­rated by just a few per­cent­age points in the Eastern Con­fer­ence stand­ings. They trail Char­lotte by a halfgame for the eighth and fi­nal play­off spot in the con­fer­ence.

“We played to­gether,” said Ross, who was 3-for-5 from the field in the fourth quar­ter. “It was a tough game, just like last night [against the Celtics]. We did a good job of stay­ing to­gether and play­ing for each other and mak­ing plays down the stretch.”

JOHN RAOUX/AP PHO­TOS

Aaron Gor­don of the Magic goes to the bas­ket be­tween James En­nis III, left, and Ger­ald Green of the Rock­ets dur­ing the sec­ond half Sun­day.

Nikola Vuce­vic of the Magic makes a move to get past the Rock­ets’ Clint Capela on Sun­day at Amway Cen­ter.

The Hous­ton Rock­ets’ James Harden passes the ball un­der pres­sure from the Or­lando Magic’s Nikola Vuce­vic on Sun­day at Amway Cen­ter. JOHN RAOUX/AP

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