The Orlando Magic will be back in action when they play host to the Houston Rockets Friday night in a nationally televised game. Despite a lackluster performance, the Magic extended their season-long winning streak to seven games with a 97-87 win over the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night.
The Rockets looked like they were back on track after winning seven of eight games but have now lost four of their last five, including three straight. Their 103-100 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday dropped their record to 16-19, dropping them into a tie for last place in the Southwest division. The Magic are back in second place in the Southeast division and are just 4.5 games behind the Boston Celtics for the #1 seed in the East.
The game will also mark the return of former Magic fan-favorite Courtney Lee, who is averaging 7.5 points per game for the Rockets this season.
The Rockets are fourth in pace (95.1), seventh in offensive rating (110.0) and 23rd in defensive rating (109.2).
The Magic are 18th in pace (92.0), 14th in offensive rating (106.6) and fourth in defensive rating (101.0).
The game will be shown locally on Sun Sports and nationally on ESPN. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen on the radio – in English on AM 580 WDBO and in Spanish on AM 1270 WRLZ.
Tip off from the Amway Center is scheduled for 8:00 pm EST.
The Line: Orlando – 9.5
The Rockets are without Yao Ming for the rest of the season (stress fracture in left ankle). Chuck Hayes will also miss the game (sprained right ankle) while Aaron Brooks is questionable (sprained left ankle).
For the Magic, Malik Allen is questionable with a sprained left ankle while Daniel Orton (left knee surgery) and Jason Williams (arthritis in feet) are out indefinitely.
The officials will be David Jones, Eli Roe and Gary Zielinski.
Opponent To Watch: Kevin Martin, G – Martin put together arguably the best and most efficient game of his career in a loss to the Trail Blazers Wednesday night. He went off for 45 points on just 18 shots. He hit six 3-pointers and was 13-of-15 from the free throw line. Martin is averaging 23.2 points per game on the season and is shooting 43.2% from beyond the arc. He’s going to be a tough matchup for Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick but the Magic did a great job with Martin last year holding him to 12.0 points per game on 28.6% shooting in two meetings last season.
What To Watch For: The Rockets have really pushed the pace this season and with Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy’s desire for his team to push the pace, we could be in for an exciting game. The Rockets have not been a very good defensive team so the Magic should be able to score. Stopping the Rockets and playing a complete game are the only issues standing between the Magic and their eighth straight win.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, co-host of CB Sports Radio from 5-7 pm week days (1420sports.com) and ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).