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The Magic take down Houston 116-109 as Harden struggles

Orlando Magic hosts the Houston Rockets at the Amway Center on Sunday January 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis

You see the headline, and yes, the Magic took out the Houston Rockets 116-109 at the Amway Center on Sunday. This is the second win in two days for the Magic over a top tier NBA team after they defeated the Boston Celtics 105-103 on Saturday.

James Harden was good for 38 points, 12 assisted and 9 rebounds, yet he had a bad night. What? Yes. Harden had a bad night.

The Houston superstar went 1 for 17 from 3-point range, actually an NBA record for shot attempts and misses. He did get fouled three times from beyond the arc and was 9 for 9 from the free throw line.

The Rockets could have used those Harden shots, because the Magic managed to hang around for most of the game. At one point, Houston managed to work up to a 12-point lead, but Orlando scored the game’s next eight points on a dunk by Vucevic, a nifty three-point play by Terrence Ross and a 3-pointer from the left wing by Ross. Harden briefly stopped the run with a runner in the lane, but Orlando was far from finished, getting 3-pointers from Evan Fournier and D.J. Augustin and another low-post move from Vucevic to seal the come-from-behind victory.

Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon scored 22 points for the Magic. Evan Fournier put in 19, and Terrence Ross dropped 17, with some key shots in the final quarter.

Evan Fournier had the task of covering Harden for the Magic. ”That was exhausting,” said Fournier, who spent most of the game chasing Harden around pick-and-rolls. ”The guy is terrific. I thought overall, we did a pretty good job, but the guy still had 38.”

‘I thought we did well against him, except for the fouls,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. ”It’s not easy to guard him without fouling and yet it’s necessary, but he also was 11 for 32, 1 for 17 and we didn’t make a lot of mistakes, except that.”

Orlando Magic hosts the Houston Rockets at the Amway Arena on Sunday January 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis

Houston had the lead for most of the night, and made it up to a 105-98 lead with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter. At that point, the Rockets went 1 for 8 and opened the way for Orlando to push for the win.

‘We scored enough points to win,” Harden said. ”We didn’t have our focus defensively, like we have the last few weeks. We gave them 70 points or something in the second half (actually, 64). You give a team like this some confidence and open shots and they made them. It’s pretty simple.”

Terrence Ross had 17 points for Orlando, including six straight in the late-game run when the Magic put away Houston. 

With Harden on the bench for a brief rest, the Rockets used a 10-2 run to start the fourth period and grab a 98-88 lead, but the Magic passed them when Ross followed a three-point play with a 3-pointer to make it 106-105 with 3:11 left. 

Fournier and D.J. Augustin followed with back-to-back 3-pointers and Vucevic hit a short jump hook that finished the run that sealed the game.

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