With 8:12 left in the first quarter, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale called timeout. His team was down 9-2, had made one of its first six shots, while committing three turnovers.
“We weren’t playing hard,” McHale said after the game. “We had bobble balls and bad passes. We weren’t moving the ball. We had to get back to doing…making them miss, getting it and going.”
After the timeout, the Rockets went on a 25-7 run, making nine of its next 12 shots, including seven of eight from behind the three point arc. At the end of the first quarter they led 28-18, never trailing again in a 91-81 win over the Orlando Magic.
“I just think we started getting more stops and we kind of let the game come to us,” Terrence Jones, who scored 16 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and blocked five shots said. “We just needed to get our pace right, and once we got that down I think the game started flowing a little better for us.”
Orlando finished the first quarter by making just four of its last 14 shots, and for the game only shot 34 percent, its lowest mark of the season. One of the keys was James Harden, who had a monster game at the offensive end scoring a game-high 27 points with 10 assists, but he also held Aaron Afflalo to 16 points on 17 shots.
“He’s great, coming off of pin downs and (isolations) and post-ups,” Harden said. “So I just wanted to make a conscious effort to stay locked in when I was guarding him.”
Afflalo was averaging a very efficient 22 points per game coming in, and with him contained, there wasn’t much Orlando could do. They had five players score in double figures, led by Glen Davis’ 18, but he needed 18 shots to get it. Jameer Nelson drained four of his six tries from behind the three-point line, and he scored 15 points. Those are the only guys who played Sunday that were teammates of Dwight Howard, who was a monster on his 28th birthday, but he had to be.
“I was a little, little late today for shootaround,” he said. “So coach told me I had to get 20 rebounds or else.”
He pulled down 22 boards, while adding 20 points. He also blocked three shots. Houston out-rebounded Orlando 60-43, and they also blocked 10 shots. That’s three straight games of 18 rebounds or more, first Rocket to that since Ralph Sampson almost 30 years ago.
The win gets the Rockets to 15-7 on the season. They are one of two teams that have played a league-high 22 games (Boston is the other), so they’ll get a little time off. The Rockets will not be in action again until Thursday night in Portland, and the rest will be nice.
“Some of the guys that are injured, they get a chance to get healthy again,” Howard said. “Hopefully we can get everybody back in these next three days.”
The week started with losses to Utah and Phoenix, but after a bit of a reflective timeout after the latter game, the Rockets scored convincing wins against Golden State and Orlando. Sometimes all you need is a timeout.Follow @AdamSpolane
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