The last time the Orlando Magic beat the Houston Rockets in central Florida, Dwight Howard(notes) was a high school sophomore, Vince Carter(notes) was a franchise savior in Canada and Tracy McGrady(notes) was one of the NBA’s best scorers - while wearing an Orlando uniform.
Howard and Carter will look to help the Magic avoid an eighth straight home loss against Houston on Wednesday night, while the Rockets try for a fourth consecutive victory with McGrady playing a limited role off the bench.
Third cousins Carter and McGrady were once teammates in Toronto and are among the NBA’s top 10 scorers of the past decade, but as Carter nears the midway point of his first season in Orlando their careers have something else in common - a stint as the Magic’s leading scorer.
While Carter (18.6 points per game) and Orlando seek a fifth win in six games Wednesday, though, they’ll have to reverse an odd trend. The Magic (21-7) haven’t beaten Houston at home since April 2002 - McGrady’s second year in central Florida.
Carter has struggled mightily from the field lately, shooting 28.6 percent and averaging 12.3 points over Orlando’s past four games, but the Magic’s deep roster has made up for it. Howard had 21 points and J.J. Redick(notes) poured in 20 off the bench Monday in a 104-99 win over Utah.
While Carter’s been off, Redick’s been hot. The former Duke star is shooting 63.0 percent and averaging 15.0 points over his last three games.
“I don’t want to say I have figured things out,” said Redick, at 45.7 percent the team’s leading 3-point shooter. “I believe in jinxes. I just want to roll with it right now.”
Perhaps a big night from Redick can help the Magic reverse their fortunes against Houston (17-11), which have extended outside of Amway Arena. Orlando has averaged 88.4 points in losing 12 of 14 overall to the Rockets since Jan. 8, 2003.
Howard’s 12.8-point average versus Houston is by far his lowest against any opponent, though this time the injured Yao Ming(notes) (24.9 points over his last 10 against Orlando) won’t stand in his way.
Magic point guard Jameer Nelson(notes) has averaged 20.5 points in his last two home games against the Rockets, and Orlando was thrilled to get its floor leader back Monday after he missed more than a month recovering from knee surgery. Nelson, however, was 0 for 6 in 14 minutes.
“I felt fine,” Nelson said. “No matter what the minutes are that they give me, I have to go out there and play them and play them aggressively.”
McGrady, who averaged 28.1 points in four years with Orlando, isn’t much more than a role player in Houston these days as he’s making his way back from serious microfracture surgery on his left knee. He’s played around seven minutes in each of his five games, though he had 10 points in Tuesday’s 108-99 win over the Los Angeles Clippers - three more than he scored in his other four contests combined.
“I felt good each game, building a little more confidence and a little bit better rhythm and shape,” McGrady said.
The more impressive return, though, came from Houston’s top reserve. Carl Landry(notes), who lost five teeth in a nasty collision with Dirk Nowitzki(notes) on Friday, came back after a one-game absence to match a career high with 27 points.
“Every night it’s a different person,” Landry said. “You never know. That’s what makes us a great team.”