Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton

The Orlando Magic are in the special stage between tanking and contending for a playoff spot, but wherever they are it makes for some fantastic basketball, led by the improving Victor Oladipo, outplaying James Harden en route to a 120-113 win over the Houston Rockets.

What most people will probably remember is Oladipo pulling off a 360 dunk as the Magic were pulling away from the Rockets in the fourth quarter, but there was much more to his performance than just dunks and highlight moves. He finished with 32 points to lead his team, adding six rebounds and six assists while going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Nikloa Vucevic had another double double, scoring 25 points to go with 12 rebounds.

The Houston Rockets shot quite well themselves (50.6%) from the field and scored 64 points in the paint, but they couldn’t hang on to the ball, finishing with 20 turnovers, seven of them by Harden. Harden scored 26 points to go with 10 assists and Dwight Howard added 23 points (7-7 from the line!!!), but the constant turnovers turned the game into a sprint battle, which is the wrong way to battle the Magic, who have plenty of guys to beat you in running up and down the floor.

The Orlando Magic are a fun team to watch, but that’s not new. The difference this season is that it might actually take them somewhere, unless the general plan is to miss the playoffs again and enjoy another lottery pick. They seem to have done quite well with both Oladipo and Payton, but holding them back for another year might be a bit too much and obvious. Tanking for too long, and it starts affecting players.

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