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Magic outrun Rockets, 120-113

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Updated 12 months ago on
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ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic have caught a glimpse of what they hope their future will be — fast-paced and high scoring.

The Magic outran the Houston Rockets 120-113 on Wednesday night, again riding the young core they hope to have for many years to come.

Second-year guard Victor Oladipo scored 32 points. Fourth-year center Nikola Vucevic had 25 points and 12 rebounds. Rookie point guard Elfrid Payton had 15 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter when he took control.

It was Oladipo’s second consecutive game of at least 30 points. It also was the first back-to-back 120-point scoring outputs for the franchise in 18 seasons. They beat the Bulls in Chicago 121-114 on Monday night.

“You kind of get the feeling that this is the start of something we’re building here,” Payton said. “I think we’re finding our identity together.”

The Rockets (27-13) were paced by NBA leading scorer James Harden, who had 26 points and nine assists. Center Dwight Howard had 23 points and eight rebounds. Neither could keep pace with the Magic in the decisive fourth quarter.

“I’m looking forward to growing with these guys around me,” Oladipo said. “This is a nice way to play. We’ve upped the tempo. It was something we just had to figure out. And maybe now we have. We’ve got a nice core together here, and we hope to keep building from this.”

The Magic (15-27) snapped Houston’s four-game winning streak, which included an average victory margin of 16 points. Oladipo and Vucevic each scored 33 points in Monday’s victory in Chicago.

“We’re growing up out there,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Victor is playing with great confidence. He’s settling into his role where we thought he would be. We’re playing with purpose now.”

Houston guard Patrick Beverley scored 17 points, forward Trevor Ariza had 15 and forward Donatas Motiejunas added 12.

Magic forward Channing Frye finished with 15 points, including a 3-point basket that gave the Magic a 111-107 lead with 1:18 remaining.

The lead changed hands 10 times in a tight fourth quarter. Payton scored for the 108-107 lead that the Magic never lost. The Rockets, one of the top teams in the Western Conference, struggled through 21 turnovers, many forced by the Magic youngsters who had the quicker hands and feet.

“They pushed it on every possession. That’s how they won the game,” Howard said. “Every time they did that, they got easy buckets. I just think it started with their point guard (Payton), the one with the crazy hair.”

Payton had four consecutive points for a 96-94 Orlando lead. Harden countered with his four straight to put Houston ahead 98-96. Ariza hit a 3-pointer to boost the Rockets into a 105-104 lead.

The Rockets shot 50.6 percent (42 of 83) from the field. They made 20 of 23 free throws. They just couldn’t stop the Magic from running circles around them.

“Those two guys (Oladipo and Payton) were getting to the rim at will and making shots,” Harden said. “They were just in attack mode. They had it rolling.”

Harden hit back-to-back layups to give the Rockets an 85-84 lead going into the fourth quarter. Howard and Harden had 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the third quarter, erasing an earlier nine-point deficit.

The Magic led 55-52 at intermission after a surprisingly hot start. Oladipo and Vucevic had 18 and 15 points, respectively, by halftime.

Oladipo scored eight consecutive points in a span of 39 seconds late in the second quarter to help the Magic open a 53-47 lead. Frye, who has struggled much of this season, hit three 3-pointers in the opening five minutes to spark the quick Magic start.

Orlando led 29-19 after the first quarter and throughout much of the second. Houston committed 13 turnovers in the first half.

The Rockets led briefly in the second quarter after Harden scored back-to-back baskets for a 45-41 lead.

NOTES: Rockets C Dwight Howard was booed soundly when introduced Wednesday night, which came as no surprise. Although Howard played eight seasons for the Magic — and led them to the NBA Finals in 2009 — his departure in 2012 was a bitter one for Magic fans. The team has struggled ever since. “I wish things didn’t happen the way they did,” Howard said Wednesday morning. “It was sour at the end, but my time here was amazing.” … Orlando C Nikola Vucevic, who replaced Howard, came into Wednesday with back-to-back games of 34 and 33 points. Howard, in 2011, was the last Magic player to hit the 30-point mark in three consecutive games. … Magic F Tobias Harris, the team’s second-leading scorer, missed his third consecutive game with an ankle sprain. … Orlando G Evan Fournier returned after missing two games with a sore knee. … The Rockets came into the game tied for the most road wins (14) in the NBA. … Getting to the free-throw line is a key for the Rockets this season. They began the night 21-1 when either Howard or G James Harden takes at least eight free throws.

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