Charlotte has been a difficult matchup for the Magic this season, dealing them two blowout losses already. With the Magic sporting a new style, there was some hope they might be able to reverse their fortunes against their Southeast Conference foe, but it was the same old story, as Orlando got blown out early and never made much of a comeback, falling 121-81 to the Hornets. Aaron Gordon was one of the few bright spots for the visiting Magic, scoring 20 points on 8-14 shooting to go with 5 rebounds, while Payton’s triple-double streak came to and end with an 8-point, 12-assist night. Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 23 points in just 24 minutes.
This was by some measures the Magic’s worst defensive performance of the season, allowing the Hornets to shoot 59.5%, the highest of any opponent this year. It started early, with Walker and the other Charlotte shooters hitting from beyond the arc time and time again, the star point guard hitting 3 of his 4 attempts in the quarter, and Brian Roberts adding two more himself. Gordon was the only one keeping the Magic vaguely within spitting distance of the Hornets’ score, getting 11 points early on off feeds from Payton into the paint. While the Magic were aggressive seeking their offense in the quarter with the starters, they couldn’t generate turnovers on defense, stifling their ability to get out and run.
The same story with the bench continued, as the 5-man unit of Augustin, Watson, Hezonja, Green, and Zimmerman continued to get soundly beaten on both ends of the court. The lone highlight was Augustin’s 3-point foul opportunity, but otherwise the bench combined for a miserable 10-33 shooting night, including 3-10 from Hezonja, who took several ill-advised, contested shots throughout the night.
Facing a big deficit at halftime, the Magic needed to come out swinging in the third, but it was instead the Hornets who struck first, hitting their first three shots to push their lead past 20. The starters were able to keep things even after that, but maintaining a 20+ point deficit was doing little to help their chances of winning. Frank Vogel, perhaps realizing that he was never going to get back into the game giving out big bench minutes, stuck with most of the starters for a large part of the quarter, but the result was the same, and with a 26-point lead at the end of the frame, the Hornets all but sealed the game.
Tonight was another cold one for Terrence Ross, who’s struggled to find his shot after a promising start to his Orlando tenure. He was the only starter to go scoreless, and the only Magic player overall except for C.J. Wilcox. While the 0-5 night might have been less harmful than the 4-17 night he debuted with, it was much harder for Orlando to break Charlotte’s interior defense without his outside shooting threat.