It may only be the second game of the season for the Magic, but it’s a revenge game for Steve Clifford.
Magic take on the Hornets tonight. Exclusive footage of Steve Clifford arriving at the arena to face the team that fired him... pic.twitter.com/nrsZyUMN6S— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) October 19, 2018
It was just a few short months ago that the Charlotte Hornets fired Clifford, who went 196-214 in five seasons as head coach. The Hornets play in Orlando on Friday, where the Magic will look to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2012.
“I loved my time there,” Clifford told reporters after practice on Thursday. “I have good relationships with a lot of the players and a lot of the people. The people in the city were great to me and the first four years frankly I’m really proud of. Last year for a number of reasons we should have played better but for the first four years I was there I was proud of what we stood for.”
Clifford, through defense and ball protection, led Charlotte to a drastic turnaround in his first season as head coach during the 2013-2014 season. He inherited a team that had the second-worst record in the league at 21-61 and guided them to a 43-39 record and playoff berth.
He hopes to do something similar with the Magic and got off to a good start in their season opener on Wednesday. Aaron Gordon had 26 points and 16 rebounds and Mo Bamba added 13 points, seven rebounds, and some crowd-pleasing dunks and blocks, to lead Orlando to a 104-101 win over the Miami Heat.
Clifford will now be looking to help the Magic snap a streak that he helped create. The Hornets have won 11 straight against the Magic, and 10 of their last 12 match-ups on Orlando’s home court.
“They’ve kicked our ass the last several years,’’ Evan Fournier told John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. “The main guy is Kemba [Walker]…It’s going to be all about him, controlling him in the pick-and-roll, making sure we get back on defense and loading up to him in transition.’’
The Hornets are coming off a 113-112 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Kemba Walker, always a thorn in the side for the Magic, scored 41 points as the Hornets nearly erased a 20-point deficit.
Charlotte has won 11 consecutive games against Orlando. During that streak, Kemba Walker averaged 21.4 points on 47.2% shooting, 5.7 assists and just 1.2 turnovers per game, per @bball_ref. He also made 91.8% of his free-throw attempts.— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) October 19, 2018
The Hornets’ new coach is also no stranger to Orlando. James Borrego, the Magic’s former assistant who took over as interim head coach in 2015 after Jacque Vaughn was fired, is the new head man in Charlotte this offseason.
Borrego went 10-20 as interim coach before the Magic hired Scott Skiles.
So, technically, this is a revenge game for both coaches.
GAME #2 TONIGHT— Orlando Magic PR (@Magic_PR) October 19, 2018
(pregame show at 6:30 p.m.)
@969thegame / @Salsa981orlando
What are they wearing? pic.twitter.com/zXV2LC9Wep
GameThread coming soon!