Rockets aim to move closer to playoff spot, host Magic
(Sports Network) - The Houston Rockets still haven't clinched a spot in the Western Conference playoffs, but will try to take a step closer on Monday when they host the Orlando Magic.
The Rockets currently sit in the seventh spot, 1 1/2 games behind the Golden State Warriors for sixth, but 2 1/2 games clear of both the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz, who are tied for eighth.
Houston snapped a two-game losing streak on Saturday thanks to a 98-81 home drubbing of the Los Angeles Clippers. To make Saturday's victory all the more impressive, the Rockets earned it without All-Star James Harden in the lineup.
James Anderson started in Harden's place, but head coach Kevin McHale made another change. Greg Smith replaced Donatas Motiejunas at the power forward spot in a move that certainly sounded more permanent than the Anderson for Harden swap.
"A lot will depend on matchups but Greg's been really good for us lately," said McHale. "He's bigger, longer and he's a grizzled veteran of, what, five games last year? He's got more experience. I hate to say it, but he knows what we're doing, he's more comfortable and I look at him as a guy that's a veteran which shows you (how young this team is)."
Smith scored nine points and pulled down 12 boards in just over 30 minutes.
Five Rockets players scored in double figures, led by 15 from Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Francisco Garcia, who was a DNP-CD in four of the last five games. Omer Asik had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Carlos Delfino netted 11.
After Monday's tilt, the Rockets head west for three straight.
The Magic halted an eight-game losing streak on Friday night with a home victory over the Washington Wizards. One night later, the losing ways returned as the Magic fell to the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta, 97-88.
Nikola Vucevic came back after missing several games with a concussion. He scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as the Magic were once again under- manned.
Jameer Nelson missed the contest with a sprained right ankle, and with Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis down for the season, four Orlando players logged 39 minutes or more.
Beno Udrih led the team with 20 points. Moe Harkless netted 17 points and Tobias Harris chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"We're getting there," said Harris. "At the same time, we've got to try our hardest to close out these games."
The Rockets won this season's first matchup, but Orlando won five in a row prior to this season. The Magic have taken four of six in Houston.
04/01 10:30:04 ET