ORLANDO, FL – The Orlando Magic resumed the 2021-22 season with a 119-111 win over the Houston Rockets at the Amway Center on Friday.
It was a big night for Chuma Okeke, who scored a career high 26 points with 9 rebounds in a faster paced game that previously this season. Okeke scored 16 of his 26 points in the second half as the Magic tried building on a 58-51 halftime lead.
Chuma continued his standard, solid defensive presence, active on the inside and being disruptive, even grabbing three steals.
“The defense is more important for what he’s able to do in these situations,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Friday’s win. “He’s able to guard multiple positions, switching one to five. He was just great with his active hands.”
Wendell Carter Jr had another strong performance, with a 24 point, 12 rebound double-double. Carter has been a steady inside presence.
Carter said he often can get down on himself for making mistakes. But he has taken a leadership role in helping keep the team focused. And in games like this, he is usually the one stepping up.
“This is my fourth year in the league, I took this All-Star break and got away from the game, kind of got my mental together,” Carter said after Friday’s game. “It’s like playing with a fresh start coming out of the All-Star break. So, that’s how I looked at this game. I just came out, free-flowing, let the game come to me, don’t force anything.”
Orlando’s bench combined for a total of 59 points. Combo guard R.J. Hampton returned and scored 11 after missing 15 games. Hampton jumped right in with his usual style, attacking the inside, but showed good ball control with his passes, giving him four assists.
Hampton’s return couldn’t have come at a better time. Jalen Suggs, started the game with an acrobatic, Sportscaster-worthy ball-off-the-backboard dunk, but he got into foul trouble early limiting his time on the floor to 14 and a half minutes with three points for the game.
“For him to come off five weeks of not playing and just step right in and defend the way he defended, making the decisions that he made at times, I think that’s huge,” Mosley said after Friday’s game. “We always talk about guys staying ready. And he took the time out as he was off to get his conditioning right, to look at his decision making, to talk about what he needed to do on the floor for us and he did that for us tonight.”
Houston come to town with NBA rookie star Jalen Green. Green had a solid 23 points, 5 rebounds and 4 seals for the Rockets. Christian Wood proved to be solid alongside Green, with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Newly traded Dennis Schroder, who recently arrived from the Boston Celtics, scored 10 points and had six assists.
This is Orlando’s 14th win of the season. Though they are tied for the league’s wort record, these wins help to build on the teams confidence as the “process” continues.
“We’re going to keep learning,” Mosley said after Friday’s game. “To understand in what situation we find ourselves in and how we react to them. So, knowing that it’s a game of runs and guys are going to make runs, they’re going to make shots. We have to understand we got to keep our poise and that’s what we were able to do tonight.”
The Magic face the Indiana Pacers on Monday night at the Amway Center at 7pm.