PREVIEW: Magic at Rockets- Dec. 21

Dec 19, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) dribbles against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Magic at Rockets- Dec. 21

The Rockets will continue their season-long seven-game homestand when Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic visit Toyota Center on Wednesday night. The Rockets will look to avoid a fourth straight loss, while the Magic will attempt to avenge a 134-127 loss to Houston in November.

Eye on the Magic

Record: 11-21 (13th in Eastern Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 110.3 (25th)

Defensive rating (rank): 114.1 (24th)

The Magic saw their six-game winning streak end with a one-point loss in Atlanta on Monday. The streak was one of the more unlikely you’ll see after Orlando started the season 5-20, and the Magic didn’t beat up on cupcakes. It started with a win over the Clippers, then two straight against Toronto, followed by a win over Atlanta, and it was capped off by back-to-back wins in Boston. Top overall pick Paolo Banchero is averaging 21.8 points per game, while second-year man Franz Wagner averages 19.6 points per game, though he is questionable to play against the Rockets due to a sprained right ankle. A big issue for Orlando this season has been health. Wendell Carter Jr and Jalen Suggs will miss Wednesday’s game. They’ve both missed more than half the season, as have Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony, who didn’t play against the Rockets in November but will play in this game.

Matchup to watch: Jabari Smith Jr. vs Paolo Banchero

They are unlikely to be matched up with one another very often, but the two top three picks from last June’s draft will always be the focus whenever their teams meet. Banchero won the box score matchup when the two played in Orlando last month with his 30-point, six-rebound game, but Smith’s team won the game. These two will forever be linked, especially after they essentially flipped draft positions at the last minute, so it will always be fun when they share the floor together.

What I’m watching for

The Rockets played a dreadful game against San Antonio on Monday. They lacked energy; they lacked focus; they lacked anything that resembled a winning basketball for three-of-four quarters. Did they learn a lesson from that game, or will they continue the uninspiring play that has plagued them the last two games? I thought Stephen Silas made a mistake by not sitting guys down after Tre Jones went unimpeded for a coast-to-coast layup after a made basket on Monday, so I’m interested to see if Silas puts his foot down and hold players accountable if he sees another poor effort.

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