Orlando Magic vs. Houston Rockets Preview and Pick

Orlando Magic PK (57-19) at Houston Rockets PK (49-28) 8:30 PM ET Tuesday April 7, 2009
By Jason Green at Predictem.com

Tonight the Orlando Magic head to the Lone Star State to take on the Houston Rockets. While both teams will make the playoffs this year this game is still important, as it is all about playoff positioning.

The Magic are in the 3rd place in the East, but only trail the 2nd place Boston Celtics by game and the Rockets are in 4th place in the West and trail the San Antonio Spurs by game and only lead the 5th place Portland Trailblazers by game. This game may be more important to the Rockets, as if they fall to the 5th position they will hit the road for a first round playoff series. The Rockets are strong at home (31-8), but are 2 games under .500 (18-20) in road games this season.

The Magic come into this game winning 8 of their last 10 games, including 4 in a row, while the Rockets are 7-3 in their last 10 and are coming off a win. The Magic can not only put pressure on the Celtics in the East with a win tonight, but they can also gain some confidence knowing they can beat good teams in their house.

This season the Rockets are 31-8 at home and the Magic are 27-11 away from the Sunshine State.

Online Sportsbooks see this game as even as a Pick with a total around 188.5. The Rockets are posted at -115 as home favorites and the Magic are posted at -105 as road dogs.

The Rockets come into this game after a huge win over the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday 102-88. The high scorer for the Rockets in that game was Yao Ming going for 21 points on 6/10 shooting and also grabbing 12 boards. For the game the Rockets shot 37/72 for a FG% of 51.4%. On D the Rockets allowed the Blazers to shoot 33/73 for a FG% of 45.2%.

The Magic come into this game after beating the Atlanta Hawks 88-82 on Saturday. The high scorer for the Magic in that game was Dwight Howard, who had a monster game with 21 points and 23 rebounds. For the game the Magic shot 30/79 for a FG% of 38%. On D the Magic held the Hawks to 30/77 shooting for a FG% of 39%.

This season the Magic rank 8th in scoring (102.1 ppg) and the Rockets rank 18th (98.4 ppg). On D both these teams are solid, as the Magic rank 5th in points allowed (94.6 ppg) and the Rockets rank 7th (94.7 ppg). The Rockets are a tad better on the boards, as they have a rebounding differential of +2.8 rpg and the Magic are at +1.4 rpg.

This season the Rockets are 37-39-1 ATS and the Magic are making their bettors happy, as they are a NBA best 48-27-1. In terms of Over/Under games this season the Rockets are 38-38-1 and the Magic are 35-40-1.

On the injury front neither team is reporting any significant injuries.

The Magic want to be seen as legit title contenders, but in their last game they only shot 38% from the field and were bailed out by Howard’s double-double.

Rashard Lewis (17.9 ppg) and Hedo Turkoglu (16.7 ppg) are one of the most lethal long range shooting tandems in the league and they need to drain the long ball tonight to give Howard (21.1 ppg 14 rpg) some room to operate down low.

Since Howard came into the league in 2004 the Magic are only 2-9 against the Rockets, including losing at home to Houston earlier in the season. In those games Howard is only averaging 12.8 ppg and 10.4 rpg and the main reason is because Yao Ming is there to defend him. Howard has to find a way to score against the 7’6″ Ming. In 8 of those games, Yao missed one due to injury, Ming has averaged 24 ppg and 9.8 rpg while shooting 55.6%.

Ron Artest (17.2 ppg) and Luis Scola (12.7 ppg) have to help out in the scoring department, which will not be easy since Howard leads the league in blocks per game (2.95).

PG Rafer Alston (11.6 ppg) has been a good fit for the Magic at PG and he may have some extra incentive tonight against the Rockets, who traded him to the Magic in the middle of the season.

Both teams have many great players, but the winner of the C match up between Ming and Howard will determine the winner of this game.