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Harden, Rockets rally from down 14 to top Magic

The Canadian Press

3/5/2014 9:49:02 PM

ORLANDO, Fla. -- James Harden scored 31 points, including 25 in the second half, and the Houston Rockets dug out of a double-digit, first-half hole to beat the Orlando Magic 101-89 on Wednesday night.

The Rockets dominated inside, outscoring the Magic 58-26 in the paint. Dwight Howard added 19 points and 14 rebounds in his second trip to Orlando to face his former team.

Houston trailed in the second quarter by as many as 14 points, but battled back to win for the 13th time in 15 outings.

Arron Afflalo led the Magic with 18 points. The Magic dropped to 0-2 this season against the Rockets.

Orlando played without Jameer Nelson and Victor Oladipo. Nelson was out sick and Oladipo missed his first game of the season with soreness in his left ankle.

Howard scored 11 points in the third quarter, connecting on five of his six field-goal attempts, to help the Rockets take 10-point lead into the fourth.

The Magic's second unit surged at the start of the period, and cut the deficit to three and prompted the Rockets to quickly re-insert their starters. Harden immediately scored five straight points, and Terrence Jones added a layup to push Houston's lead back up to 86-76 with 5:37 to play.

Orlando never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.

Orlando fans greeted Howard with a round of boos during player introductions and another the first time he touched the ball after the game tipped off.

Howard briefly silenced them, slamming down a dunk on the Rockets' first possession.

It was one of his few highlights early, though, as the Magic rode hot early shooting and jumped out to a 14-point first-quarter advantage on the way to a 48-41 halftime lead.

The Magic did honour Howard, with a video tribute on the scoreboard between the first and second quarter as part of the team's season-long 25th anniversary celebration. But even that was met with sporadic boos during the presentation from fans.

Howard said before the game that he thought the video package could bring about some emotion. He was on the bench when it was played, but managed a slight smile as the booing persisted.

It continued whenever Howard touched the ball, and he struggled at different points in the half, finishing with just seven points.

Orlando started the half connecting on 10 of its first 14 field-goal attempts. That cooled to 44 per cent by halftime, with Houston holding a 26-18 advantage on scoring inside the paint, and 28-18 rebounding edge.

Notes: Oladipo had been the only Magic player to appear every game this season before Wednesday. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said the rookie's injury doesn't stem from a particular incident, but is just general soreness. ... Former NBA player Grant Hill sat courtside.