NBA News Wire

Rockets 101, Magic 89

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ORLANDO — Guard James Harden scored 31 points and center Dwight Howard had 19 points and 13 rebounds, leading the Houston Rockets to a 101-89 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.

The Rockets have the best record (21-6) in the NBA since Jan. 1, determined to secure home court for the first round of the playoffs. After a slow start, they dominated the second half when Harden scored 25 of his points.

Forward Chandler Parsons had 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Forward Terrence Jones had 17 points. The Rockets held a 49-34 rebound advantage.

The Magic were led by guard Arron Afflalo, who had 18 points in his first game back after missing five with a sprained ankle. Center Nikola Vucevic had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Magic closed the deficit to 79-76 early in the fourth before the Rockets pulled away, doing as they pleased down the stretch.

The Rockets dominated the third quarter, turning a seven-point halftime deficit into a 75-65 lead going into the fourth. Harden and Howard sparked the surge with 14 and 11 points, respectively, in the period.

The Rockets opened the decisive third quarter with an 8-0 run, then closed it by scoring the last 11 points.

The Magic led 48-41 at halftime, getting 12 points from Maurice Harkless and 10 each from Vucevic and Afflalo. They led by as many 14 points early in the second period.

Parsons scored 15 points in the second quarter, sparking the comeback that erased much of the Magic’s early lead.

Howard started slowly, committing three turnovers in the first five minutes. He had seven points, five rebounds and four turnovers in the first half.

The Magic hit 14 of 23 shots in the

NOTES: As part of their 25th anniversary celebration, the Magic showed a video tribute to Rockets C Dwight Howard, who forced a trade from Orlando in 2012 and prompted the fall of the franchise. The crowd reaction was mixed but mostly featured boos. Through much of the first period, he was booed each time he touched the ball. “Hopefully, the fans can forgive me for how the situation ended,” Howard said before the game. … Houston F Chandler Parsons, longtime Magic fan who played high school basketball in Central Florida, said before the game if he were in the crowd this night, he would boo Howard, too. … G Arron Afflalo, the Magic’ leading scorer, returned after a five-game absence with an ankle injury. Orlando rookie G Victor Oladipo (sore left ankle) missed his first game of the season. PG Jameer Nelson (sore left calf) sat out his second consecutive game. … Entering the game, the Rockets had won 19 consecutive games in which they scored at least 100 points, the longest active streak in the NBA.opening period when they jumped to a 32-19 lead.