ORLANDO, FL – The Orlando Magic started off their 35th season with a 116-86 thumping of the Houston Rockets.
In what seems to be a continuance of last season, the Magic continued to play with aggressiveness and confidence as they newly assembled Rockets seemed to try to figure things out.
Orlando, who came up just short of making the NBA play-in spot for last year’s playoffs, started the game strong and controlled to nearly from start to finish.
Cole Anthony lead all scorers with 20 points off of the bench for the Magic, but other players played their parts in the when, even though they didn’t have high numbers on the scoreboard.
Paolo Banchero, for example., was pointed out by head coach Jamal Mosley, as someone who had done the work to forward the team, even though in this game, he had one of the fewest shot attempts in his short career (6).
Banchero provided key passing combinations for Franz Wagner, who scored 17 points for the Magic , many off of passes from Paolo.
Houston’s Udoka’s strategy seemed to be focuses defensively on Wagner and Banchero, with Dillon Brooks pestering Franz all night, and Jabari Smith Rj doing the same to Paolo.
But the “play by committee” mentality of this young Magic group just shifted the offensive scoring to other players. Markelle Fultz came up with key shots, dunks, and penetrate and dish combos to make opportunities for other players.
Anthony went 8 for 12 from the field and played 24 minutes in a reserve role. Franz Wagner scored 17 points for Orlando, and Paolo Banchero finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks each scored 14 points in their first game with Houston. VanVleet and Brooks signed with the Rockets in free agency.
Houston center Alperen Senguin added 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Magic power forward Jonathan Isaac, who played in only 11 games over the last two seasons due to a series of injuries, had 11 points and four rebounds in 14 minutes.
Isaac finished the third quarter with a block of a Jalen Green layup and drew a technical foul for standing over Green and taunting him.
“I kind of shocked myself,” Isaac said. “The excitement poured over, and I was just excited about the play, excited about the moment. I went over to the coach and I was apologizing and he said ‘Listen, we are with it!’”
“That was such a momentum-building play,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “I know he got the technical, and we don’t want to do that. But the other side of it is we have said we’re a defensive team, and that set the tone. That let ’em know we’re going to protect the rim, whatever that looks like.”
The game marked the Rockets debut for Ime Udoka, who coached the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his only other season (2021-22) as an NBA head coach.
Houston standout rookie Amen Thompson scored 8 points on three of ten shooting with four turnovers.
The Magic had a 56-31 rebounding advantage, and the Rockets committed 18 turnovers.
“(The win) is going to validate us for about 30 minutes, and then we practice tomorrow and go on a tough road trip on the West Coast,” Anthony said. “We didn’t put in all this work to win one game.”
The Magic next head out to the west coast for the earliest west coast swim in team history. They face off against the Portland Trailblazers on Friday at 10pm EST.