Magic musings: Short-handed Orlando can’t keep up with Rockets

ORLANDO, Fla. — There was no way the Orlando Magic could sustain the blazing start they got off to against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets.

Even with Victor Oladipo missing his first game all season and Jameer Nelson not on hand after becoming ill earlier in the week, the Magic raced out to a double-digit lead in the opening eight minutes against one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

But much to the frustration of a crowd that booed Howard every time he touched the ball, the Rockets methodically wore down the Magic and came away with a 101-89 victory.

Arron Afflalo returned after missing five consecutive games with a sprained right ankle and led the Magic with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting. But his presence was almost offset by Oladipo not being in uniform because of a sore left ankle.

The Magic were on fire early, making 12 of their first 16 first-goal attempts and taking a 32-19 lead after one quarter. They were up 48-41 at halftime against a team coming off a win Tuesday night at home against the Miami Heat, whereas the Magic hadn’t played since beating the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Howard had only seven points and five rebounds at halftime but finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds, although he failed to block a shot. Orlando-area native Chandler Parsons also had 19 points as the Rockets improved to 21-6 since the first of the year, the best such record in the NBA.

THE TURNING POINT

Dwight Howard returns

The Rockets scored the final 11 points of the third quarter to take a 75-65 lead. The run included four free throws and a 3-point field goal by James Harden.

THE DIFFERENCE MAKER

After having only six points at halftime, Harden turned it on over the final two quarters and finished with a game-high 31 points.

STAT OF THE GAME

The Rockets have now won their last 20 games when scoring at least 100 points, the longest streak of its kind this season.

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WHAT’S NEXT

Saturday night at San Antonio, 8:30 p.m. (FOX Sports Florida).

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.