The Orlando Magic jumped all over the Charlotte Bobcats in the first quarter of Wednesday's game, but their defense fell apart as the game progressed, enabling the Bobcats to get the 114-108 win. Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson scored 34 points apiece, while Bismack Biyombo added 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three blocked shots. Former Magic forward Josh McRoberts had six points, eight boards, three assists, and a key blocked shot in the final minute for Charlotte.
The Magic got career-bests with 29 points and six assists from combo forward Tobias Harris as the second-year player made his 10th consecutive start, while rookie center Kyle O'Quinn filled in admirably for Nikola Vučević with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists of his own.
The Bobcats trailed by 19 points after the first quarter, but outscored the Magic by 25 points over the remaining three quarters to pick up the victory. Orlando's losing streak now stands at eight.
Orlando shot 70 percent in the opening period and scored 39 points, a season-high, as its two leading scorers combined to top Charlotte's total.
Indeed, both O'Quinn and Harris got off to hot starts on Wednesday, helping Orlando to control the game from the opening tip. Harris announced his presence with a pair of threes, two blocked shots, a layup, and an 18-foot jumper; as that last shot dropped through the hoop, an on-court microphone caught a Charlotte player shouting an obscenity.
O'Quinn, never known as a great offensive player, got three garbage buckets just by running the floor and being in the right place at the right time; his scoring was more opportunistic than assertive, but he also drained two long two-pointers in face-up situations, showing more offensive versatility than normal.
Charlotte, for its part, played a disorganized brand of ball at both ends of the floor in the early going, committing four turnovers--three bad passes and one outright strip--and forcing poor shots. Byron Mullens was the most egregious example, jacking four shots in less than four minutes.
The Bobcats began to chip away at Orlando's lead in the second quarter, using a 17-4 run in the opening 5:50 to trim Orlando's lead to six points. The Magic's offense faltered without Harris, who missed his first two shots of the quarter before taking a rest at the 9:10 mark. Charlotte, meanwhile, found the range offensively, shooting 7-of-13 from the floor with only one turnover in that span. It also must be said that they worked harder to get good looks, rather than settling for bad ones.
Harris and O'Quinn worked to keep Charlotte at bay, and the rookie center's ability to facilitate the Magic's offense from the high post took a load off Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who had to contend with the pesky and energetic defense of Kemba Walker. All four of O'Quinn's first-half assists led to baskets right at the rim, including a powerful, one-handed slam by Harris, after which play the normally staid Harris let out a primal scream.
The Bobcats' ability to draw fouls helped keep them in the game in the first half, as they went 9-of-15 from the stripe compared to Orlando's 4-of-6 mark.
The shorthanded Magic--Vučević and Andrew Nicholson stayed at home in Orlando with injuries--played a spread-out offensive style which maximized the strengths of their available players. Flattening out the floor for Nelson and O'Quinn to run high pick-and-rolls yielded open shots, and the Magic were also able to exploit some size mismatches, as when they got the ball to DeQuan Jones in the post against the diminutive Walker for an easy layup early in the third quarter.
Back-to-back triples by Henderson and Walker trimmed the Magic's lead to four points, prompting Magic coach Jacque Vaughn to call for time. Henderson was wide-open as he stepped into his shooting motion in delayed transition. Walker, too, didn't have a defender near him when he sank his off a Jannero Pargo dish just 33 seconds of game time later. Moments later, Henderson crossed over the taller, slower Harris and sank a pull-up two-pointer to bring Charlotte to within two points. Harris didn't fall over on the play, but was so concerned with Henderson's ability to drive the ball that he beelined to the baseline to cut it off, conceding the open jumper.
Pargo followed Henderson's jumper with the Bobcats' third triple of the third quarter to bring Charlotte to within one. Another three-point play--a Henderson technical free throw and a pull-up jumper by Walker--gave Charlotte a 73-71 advantage, its first since 14-13 at the 6:25 mark of the first quarter.
All told, Charlotte shot 8-of-9 to open the third quarter. Henderson sank his first five attempts of the period, and four of his five free throws, until he missed two jumpers in the final minute. He and Walker cut up the Magic's defense for 23 of the Bobcats' 32 third-period points. Orlando entered the second quarter with a 19-point lead, but found itself down by one just 24 minutes of game time later.
But the Magic righted themselves to start the fourth, getting a pair of foul shots from Harris and a corner three-pointer from Maurice Harkless to take a four-point lead. Harkless nailed another triple from the same spot less than 90 seconds later to put Orlando up five.
The Magic's lead reached seven at the 8:14 mark of the fourth when Beno Udrih hit a spot-up three off a feed from Harris. Orlando was unable to shut the door on the Bobcats, however, and the hosts used a 16-7 run to take a 108-106 lead with 2:30 to go. A jam in transition by Biyombo--O'Quinn was late getting back--gave the Bobcats their first lead since the end of the third quarter.
The next Charlotte possession proved fateful for Orlando. Ben Gordon missed a jumper in traffic, but Henderson came away with the rebound. Walker missed an open three, but Harris couldn't wrest the board away from Biyombo, forcing a jump ball. Biyombo won the tip, setting the stage for another Henderson jumper, giving him 34 points and putting the Bobcats ahead by four.
With 17 seconds to play, McRoberts, acquired from Orlando in February, finished an alley-oop pass from Gordon to put Charlotte up six and effectively end Orlando's comeback effort.
Save for that spell to start the second quarter, offense was never really an issue for the Magic, which shot nearly 60 percent in the third quarter. The real problem was defending the Bobcats, whose stable of athletes was able to outrun Orlando's in the halfcourt and in fast-break situations.