HOUSTON (AP)D.J. Augustin scored 24 points off the bench, Aaron Gordon added 19 and the Orlando Magic got a 126-106 win over slumping Houston on Sunday night to hand the Rockets their fourth straight loss.
“We didn’t worry about what the Rockets were doing,” Augustin said. “We just wanted to come out and play our game.”
The Rockets won six in a row before hitting this rough patch in which they haven’t just lost games but have looked out of sorts in losses to the Knicks, Clippers and Hornets before Sunday’s defeat. Houston’s four-game losing streak matches a season high.
Houston star James Harden said it feels “very strange” on the court right now and he has “no clue” why things are going so wrong. But he remains confident the Rockets can get back on track.
“We’re not really worried, just frustrated,” he said. “It seems like it’s just all going bad, but the way you get out of it is to keep pushing through, keep fighting through and the tide will turn around and we’ll make a turnaround.”
Houston trailed by 25 at halftime in another lackluster performance a day after falling behind 20-0 in a 108-99 loss at Charlotte. During their winning streak the Rockets were looking to move up in the Western Conference standings and get one of the top three seeds. Now they’ve tumbled into sixth place in the West and need to find a way to get back on track before they fall even further with five weeks left in the regular season.
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said he believes his team is “questioning everything” as things have started to snowball, but like Harden he believes the Rockets have the players to turn things around.
“We will get through this and we will be good on the other side,” D’Antoni said. “So hopefully this is rock bottom. I don’t know that, but if it gets much worse it will not be pretty.”
Russell Westbrook led Houston with 24 points to give him at least 20 in a career-long 33 straight games, but he also topped the Rockets with eight of their 18 turnovers. Harden scored 23, but made just six of 19 shots and turned the ball over four times.
Nikola Vucevic added 16 points with 16 rebounds for Orlando, which won its second consecutive game after dropping the previous three.
The Magic scored the first five points of the second half to extend their lead to 76-46 with about 10½ minutes left in the third quarter.
The Rockets used an 11-2 run after that, with five points from Westbrook, to get to 78-57. But Markelle Fultz made two 3-pointers in the next minute to extend Orlando’s lead to 84-57 with about seven minutes remaining in the third.
The Magic were up by 29 entering the fourth quarter and extended it to 115-84 with about eight minutes left after scoring five straight points with a 3 from Terrence Ross.
The Rockets used a 12-2 run, with six points from Jeff Green, to cut the deficit to 117-96. But Fultz made a layup seconds later and D’Antoni cleared his bench after that with about five minutes left and the game out of reach.
Houston’s small lineup had trouble rebounding against the Magic and was beaten 49-38 on the boards. That helped the Magic to a 22-8 advantage in second-chance points.
“It shows how we paid attention in shootaround and what we focused on for the game, the key points to the game – just pounding them on the boards and in the post,” Augustin said.
Magic: Fultz had 18 points and five assists. … Orlando made 13 3-pointers. … The Magic had six players score in double figures.
Rockets: G Eric Gordon missed his second game in a row with a sore right knee. … Green, who had 18 points, received a technical foul late in the second quarter for complaining to officials after getting a foul. … Robert Covington also received a technical in the second quarter for arguing about an offensive foul. … D’Antoni got a technical foul seconds after Covington’s.
Magic: Visit Memphis on Tuesday night.
Rockets: Host Minnesota on Tuesday night.