The Orlando Magic had to open up the season on the road against the prohibitive Western Conference favorites Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, and lost. Dwight Howard had a rough night on offense, and he wasn't alone: the Magic had an offensive rating of 96, allowing the Thunder to prevail despite a sub-par offensive night (104 offensive rating) of their own.
Howard shot an awful 4-12 from the floor; he'd only taken 12 or more shots in a game and made four or fewer six previous times in 568 career games. Orlando did get a strong effort out of Ryan Anderson, the team's rising stretch power forward. Anderson scored 25 points on 9-17 shooting, hitting 6-12 from long-range. Even if Howard has a poor night, he effectively opens up the floor for all four teammates on the court.
The Magic will welcome the Houston Rockets, who are making their debut under coach Kevin McHale, who'd spent the better part of the last two decades with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Under new Wolves coach Rick Adelman, the Rockets last year went 43-39, missing out on the playoffs only because the West remains so deep. The Rockets will be without just one major contributor from the 2010-11 roster: big man Chuck Hayes, who left for the Sacramento Kings. The Rockets tried to swing a trade for Pau Gasol when free agency opened, but it fell apart, so the team remains without an All-Star.
Luis Scola and Kevin Martin, though, are brilliant, blue-chip scorers, and Kyle Lowry is one of the game's undersung studs. The team added Samuel Dalembert late in free agency, and it's unclear if he'll be able to play on Monday. If not, Jordan Hill will likely man the pivot. Chase Budinger is a nice transition scorer at small forward, and off the bench the Rockets have Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic and rookie Marcus Morris.
The game is set for a 7 p.m. ET tip on NBA TV.