Winners of three straight at home, the Orlando Magic welcomed the Charlotte Hornets to the Amway Center for a mid-week matchup. Despite hanging with the Hornets in the first half, the Magic got crushed in the second half, falling to the Hornets, 120-101.
Unlike the last two games, the Magic got off to a somewhat slow start, falling behind 10-4 in the opening minutes of the game. As they began settling into the flow of the game, things began going their way at a rapid rate. Behind a monster quarter from Serge Ibaka — the Magic’s power forward scored 15 points and added a pair or rebounds, assists and blocks — the Magic hung around with Hornets, taking a brief lead late in the quarter. Despite their rally, and Ibaka’s big quarter, the Magic still found themselves trailing by four, 32-28 after one.
Turning to their bench, the Magic found themselves slipping once again, falling down by nine early in the quarter. The reserves, led by Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic, began storming their way back, going on an 11-2 run to tie the game up. Once Charlotte reinserted Kemba Walker, however, the momentum swung back in the Hornets favor, with Charlotte finishing the quarter on a 21-14 run. Despite 20 from Ibaka, and and 12 from Vucevic, the Magic still trailed the Hornets by seven, 62-55 at the half.
Out of halftime the wheels fell off the bus for the Magic. Despite getting some quality looks at the basket, the Magic were unable to throw a pebble in the ocean in the third quarter. Their inability to score the ball bled over onto the defensive side as well, with the Hornets beating them down the court on countless possessions, and scoring on seemingly every trip down the floor. After three, the game was all but over, with the Hornets leading by 29, 97-68.
Down by 29, Frank Vogel turned to Mario Hezonja and Damjan Rudez early in the fourth, all but waving the white flag. Charlotte’s defense, and hot shooting was too much for the Magic, as they suffered another blow out at home. With three days off before their next game, the Magic will need to focus on the defensive end and hope to return to their strong form on that end come the start of the new year.
Kemba Walker led six Hornets in double figures with 11. Nicolas Batum flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Ramon Sessions scored 13 off the bench, with Jeremy Lamb adding 14. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 12 of his own, while Cody Zeller scored 10, despite dislocating a finger in the first half.
Vucevic led the way for the Magic with 21. Ibaka didn’t score in the second half, finishing with 20 on the night. Jodie Meeks, once again starting for the injured Evan Fournier, added 11. Mario Hezonja scored 10 of his own in the fourth quarter.