Playing without their leading scorer in Cole Anthony for the third straight-game, the Orlando Magic dropped their fourth contest in a row (and seventh loss in their last eight games) Wednesday night at home against the Charlotte Hornets, 106-99.
The Hornets were led by their starting back-court duo, Terry Rozier and LaMelo Ball. Rozier scored a game-high 27 points, and Ball added 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
The competitive contest Wednesday night saw 17 lead changes, a stark difference from the last time Orlando was on the court.
“I loved our fight,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters after the game, citing that his team’s defensive effort was much improved compared to what he saw from them in Milwaukee over the weekend. “What (and where) we need to continue to talk about getting better is taking care of the basketball.”
Orlando committed 15 turnovers against Charlotte, and the Hornets were able to parlay those mistakes into 21 fast-break points.
“Those live ball turnovers, we've got to just continue to take care of the ball,” Mosley added. “We have to make sure we give ourselves a chance.”
The Magic were able to build an early lead thanks to the Hornets starting the game off ice cold from the floor, missing 12 of their first 13 attempts.
Orlando was led early inside by their two towering big men, Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. Both fourth-year big men took their turns electrifying the crowd early in the first quarter with thunderous dunks at the rim. The Magic were able to enjoy a 14-8 margin over the Hornets in the paint (in the game’s opening period).
Charlotte’s cold shooting in the first quarter turned around thanks in large part to Rozier. Rozier opened the second period with back-to-back three-point field goals.
Ball was pulled by Hornets head coach James Borrego and sequestered to the bench in the second quarter, following a blown dunk where the second-year star guard tried to lob a pass to himself (on a three-on-none fast-break). Rozier took control of Charlotte’s offense, scoring 12 of his 27 points in the second.
Oh no, LaMelo Ball... ♂️ pic.twitter.com/DaT1FLaRvv— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 25, 2021
The Magic got very sloppy in the second quarter. Their offense became stagnant as they settled for too many outside shots, while they turned the ball over carelessly at times as well. Coming out of a timeout, Bridges was able to convert an uncontested dunk, which was immediately followed by an inbounds turnover (and Charlotte field goal). Later in the quarter, again following an uncontested dunk (this time by Kelly Oubre Jr.), the Magic committed another inbound violation.
Oubre Jr. scored 21 points in 34 minutes off Charlotte’s bench (7-17 FGA’s, 3-8 3PTA’s, 4-5 FTA’s).
Orlando was able to stay connected with Charlotte thanks to a shooting lift from reserves Mychal Mulder and Moritz Wagner, who combined to make 4 of 9 three-point attempts in the first half. The Magic were without their leading scorer off the bench Wednesday in Terrence Ross, who was a late scratch from the contest with back spasms.
Rozier kept it going to begin the second half, converting a layup after a Suggs turnover, while following that up with another steal and layup on the next Orlando possession after Bamba fumbled the ball away on the perimeter.
The Magic steadied themselves and reclaimed the lead in the third quarter behind strong outside shooting from their starting five. Franz Wagner, Bamba, and Carter Jr. combined to knock-down five three-point field goals in the first six minutes of the second half.
Charlotte went on a significant run to close out the third quarter, but it was a defensive play by Bamba that may have been a defining moment in the period. Orlando’s starting center was called for goaltending, but replay appeared to indicate that Bamba blocked the shot before it hit the backboard. Mosley decided not to challenge the goaltending call, and Charlotte proceeded to go on a 15-0 run to reclaim the lead (nine of those coming after the missed call). A M. Wagner three-point field goal as time expired stopped the bleeding and sent the game to the fourth quarter.
“I’d have to go back and look at it, but I considered it,” Mosley said after the game when asked about potentially challenging the call on the floor. “By the time I got done talking to Lauren (one of the game officials), I think it ended up being too late to challenge. I was trying to figure out exactly what happened in that situation.”
An incredible high-lofted floater in the lane by Rozier put Charlotte up by double-digits with three minutes remaining in the contest. On the next Magic offensive possession, Rozier put the game on ice by stealing the ball away from Bamba (again), going coast-to-coast for a layup (and the foul).
“I think tonight we played a great 44 minutes of basketball,” rookie guard Jalen Suggs told reporters after the game. “We had little lapses for three or four minutes, that came in spurts. Thirty seconds, forty-five seconds. We kind of got lackadaisical, we let them get comfortable, and that let them build confidence.”
The Magic got balanced scoring up and down their roster, with six of the ten players that logged minutes scoring in double-figures - including all five starters. Bamba led the way with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Carter Jr. scored 14 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Rookies F. Wagner and Suggs chipped in 16 points and 17 points respectively.
“We don’t have one guy that can go out and score 30 (or 25) every night,” Bamba added after the game when asked about the importance of sharing the basketball. “We’re down a few bodies right now, it’s just a matter of going out there and playing for someone else.”
The Magic will look to get healthy, and hopefully get one or two guys back, when they host former Orlando All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and the Chicago Bulls.
-Before Wednesday’s game, Coach Mosely indicated that Markelle Fultz has recently had “a little more contact, doing a little bit more on the floor now.”
-He also indicated during his pregame conference that Anthony “will be a little while longer. (Anthony’s) just going to continue to get treatment and we will see how he responds (to treatment). He’ll be a little bit longer (in this process).”
-After the game, Mosley shared - regarding Ross - that he thinks “it’s just a little back tightness. We’re going to go back and find out how he comes back after tomorrow.”