On Sunday, March 8th, the Orlando Magic will be on the road to take on the Houston Rockets for a cross-conference matchup.
Houston is currently in a battle for the fourth seed with the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference, while the Magic are hanging on to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
After trading Clint Capela, Houston has completely doubled-down on the small ball aspect of their team, but it has worked out successfully so far.
On Orlando’s end, they have been up and down all season long, but won their last outing against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Coming into this game, the Houston Rockets draw the home favorite at -9, with the over/under being set at 233.5.
A prolonged period of average
It has been over a decade since the city of Orlando found themselves in the mix for an NBA Championship. Their team has gone through the cycle of head coaches and their front office has struggled to put together quality draft picks.
At any rate, they do continue to be competitive and last year’s postseason birth was their first in quite some time. It looks as if they are on pace to make the postseason again this year, so you can consider that progress for this organization.
Nikola Vucevic has been their leader, heart and soul of their team. They took a gamble trading for Markelle Fultz last year and that trade seems to be working out well for them.
Putting it all together will be the question, and against this Houston Rockets team, the small-ball element could put Vucevic in some dangerous situations.
We’ll have to see if he can take advantage of his height in this situation.
A time to finally unlock Russell Westbrook
When the Rockets originally made the trade for Westbrook, it looked like it might turn into a disaster. They doubled down on their small ball game, and it seems to be paying off.
Giving Westbrook more space has proven to be one of the most dangerous situations that any defense can face.
Harden’s numbers have regressed slightly, but when you were averaging 38 points per game and now you’re down to 35 it is hard to take notice.
Westbrook is now more involved instead of standing on the side and watching Harden dribble. He has also taken out most of the bad three pointers he was taking and led the league in points scored inside the paint in February.
I really only worry about injuries to Harden, Westbrook or PJ Tucker, but right now the Rockets look like finals contenders.
Houston gets the W on their home court
Even though they have made some progress this season, I don’t think that the Magic are very good. That doesn’t mean they can’t compete in this game, but going into Houston and locking down Harden and Westbrook is a tall order.
Take Houston in this matchup to secure the victory on their home floor, and expect a high scoring game with not too much defense being played.