The Charlotte Bobcats built an 18-point lead in the first quarter against the Orlando Magic on Friday, and though the Magic rallied back to take the lead in the second and third quarters, the home team couldn't end its nine-game losing streak. The Bobcats prevailed by a 111-101 final.
Veteran center Al Jefferson led Charlotte with 30 points and 16 rebounds in 36 minutes, while former Magic forward Josh McRoberts added 17 points with five three-pointers.
The Magic got balanced scoring, with Arron Afflalo's 24 leading the way. Victor Oladipo nearly tallied the second triple-double of his career by producing 11 points, five rebounds, and 10 assists.
The game could scarcely have gotten off to a worse start for Orlando, which found itself trailing by a 21-3 margin with 4:40 to play in the first quarter. As Charlotte built that lead, the Magic missed nine of their first 10 shot attempts and committed four turnovers for six Bobcats points. Orlando didn't make its second field goal until seven minutes and 36 seconds had elapsed in the period, a combination of wayward shooting and the Bobcats' own defense limiting their dribble penetration.
But that second field goal, a Nelson floater, seemed to knick the lid off the rim: the Magic made five of their next seven shots and ultimately closed the period trailing by a 30-18 margin. That's a big deficit, sure, but considering how poorly Orlando started the game, it had to have been happy with that result.
In the second quarter, the Magic fought their way back by pushing the pace off Bobcat misses and getting scoring opportunities against a Charlotte defense still scrambling to match up. A 10-0 Magic run, which included arguably the most impressive dunk of their season, put them ahead of the Bobcats, 44-43, with 4:15 to play in the half. That lead was their first of the game.
Eight ties or lead changes occured until the end of the half, with Glen Davis' long deuce with three seconds remaining proving to be the final one and putting Orlando ahead by one at intermission. The Magic closed the half on a 50-31 run to take that narrow edge.
One shouldn't overlook Kyle O'Quinn's contributions to help Orlando get back into Friday's game: in the first half, the second-year center tallied six points, five rebounds, and two blocks in just eight minutes as Jacque Vaughn once again called on him ahead of Jason Maxiell for backup big-man minutes.
Back-to-back baskets by Tobias Harris gave Orlando a 62-60 lead early in the third quarter--its largest lead of the night--but Charlotte responded by scoring nine straight points to re-take control of the game. A jumper by Jefferson moments later put the vistors ahead by 10.
In the third quarter, the Bobcats re-committed themselves to walling off the paint, and did so to great effect: Charlotte allowed Orlando just four shot attempts in the paint in the third quarter, yielding four points. At the other end, it ran its offense through Jefferson, who scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting as the Bobcats took a four-point edge into the fourth quarter.
The Magic twice pulled to within three points of the Bobcats in the final frame, but they never put together enough of a run to seize control of the game. A three-pointer from E'Twaun Moore cut the Bobcats' lead to 85-82 with 9:05 to go, but to their credit, the visitors responded by going on an 11-3 run.
Charlotte maintained control of the game in an impressive, but mostly invisible, way: by drawing fouls and converting at the line. In the opening six minutes of the fourth quarter, the Bobcats shot 12-of-14 from the foul line, getting more makes on fewer attempts than they did in the first three periods combined (10-of-15).
With Orlando unable to get stops, Charlotte maintained a comfortable advantage for most of the rest of the game. But with 2:55 to play, Afflalo drained a three-pointer as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fouled him, and the trey brought Orlando to within seven. The foul shot cut the Bobcats' lead to six, but Jefferson answered with one of his patented, whirling, one-armed push shots to give Charlotte some breathing room. He would sink the Bobcats' next two baskets to put them up 10 with 1:07 to play, icing the game and capping his 30-point night.