Losers of ten straight, the Magic entered their road showdown with the Hornets searching for a little of the luck necessary to finally get back in the victor’s column. The return of Jalen Suggs combined with team-wide intensity and effort ultimately provided just that, the Wagner brothers delivering an awesome duet that delivered a much-needed 116-109 win.
It was a fast start for the Magic, with Gary Harris and Chuma Okeke knocking in back-to-back threes to open up a quick 6-0 lead. The team continued to apply pressure to the Hornets with crisp passing, drive-and-kick sequences finding open shooters on the wings and in the corner, and advantageous cuts and lane-running being rewarded with timely dimes. When Harris drained his second long-range make it was 13-6 Orlando, the Hornets forced to an early timeout as they searched for an adjustment.
Charlotte countered by pushing the pace, capitalizing on some long rebounds and errant Orlando passes to fuel a 13-2 run. The veteran pairing of Terrence Ross and Robin Lopez were able to help the Magic steady, the duo combining for a trio of buckets that edged the Magic back in front. However, long caroms and turnovers continued to power the Hornets’ transition game, propelling them on another 7-0 burst that put them back up 28-23.
With the game starting to be played more on Charlotte’s terms, the Magic received a valuable injection from the returning Suggs. He scored 5 points in the quarter’s final few minutes, with aggressive decision-making on offense and active hands on defense creating opportunities for his teammates. Most importantly, he looked comfortable in his return to play. His play ultimately allowed Orlando to chip away at the deficit, the quarter ending with them within a point, down 36-35.
The Wagner brothers helped the Magic maintain their torrid pace across the opening minutes of the second. They were involved in four of the side’s first five scoring sequences, collecting dunks, triples and free-throws along the way. Their energy was apparent at both ends of the floor, with Franz even recording his second block of the night on a sublime sequence when matched-up against Miles Bridges. These contributions allowed the Magic to reclaim the lead, going up 47-43 as the quarter neared the halfway point.
Unfortunately Orlando wasn’t able to parlay this hot scoring into a sizable advantage, the team leaking just as many points at the other end of the floor. The Hornets were generating a steady stream of looks from behind the arc and shots in the painted area, aided by Orlando’s own turnovers and a handful of offensive rebounding sequences. Back-to-back triples by Bridges and Terry Rozier allowed them to briefly push the margin to five, before a Suggs-inspired burst brought it back within a single basket. The breakneck contest was suitably tight at the half, the Magic trailing just 63-61 after two quarters.
Both Orlando (24-44) and Charlotte (25-48) were converting at greater than 50% from the field in the first half, testament to the offensively-inclined nature of the game. For the Magic it was a balanced affair, with all nine players making at least one basket but just one – Franz Wagner with 11 – in double figures. Brother Moe offered major support with 9 points in just 10 minutes off the bench, while Suggs was impressively involved in his return, racking up 8 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes of action. For the Hornets, it was the expected triumvirate doing most of the damage, Terry Rozier (16, 4 and 3), LaMelo Ball (11, 3 and 5), and Gordon Hayward (10 on 4-5 shooting).
LaMelo helped the Hornets seize the ascendancy early in the third, inspiring his team to an 11-5 run that included a cold step-back three and a SportsCenter worthy fastbreak alley-oop after he plucked the ball away from Cole Anthony. To the Magic’s credit they found a way to stay in it, Lopez starting things by hitting Harris with a patented hook-pass on a back-cut and Okeke knocking down a catch-and-shoot triple for his second of the night. When Lopez crashed the boards and put back an Anthony miss, it capped a 7-0 spurt that brought Orlando back within a point at 74-73.
Another triple from the corner by Harris, again generated by incisive passing, pushed the run to 10 and swung the score back Orlando’s way. He added another 5 as part of a personal 8 straight for the Magic, helping the team take their largest lead since the opening minutes as they went up 83-78. Unfortunately this also marked the start of a team-wide drought, Orlando going nine consecutive possessions without a point courtesy of 7 missed field goals and 3 turnovers. It allowed the Hornets to rattle off a 9-0 run before Ross was able to snap it with a mid-range make, a Moe Wagner three-pointer 40 seconds later putting them back up by a point. Charlotte finished the quarter with 4 straight from the free-throw line, ultimately taking a 91-88 lead into the final quarter.
Neither side was particularly sharp to open the fourth, turnovers and missed shots punctuating sloppy sequences at both ends. Suggs was able to earn some tough points, finishing a nice cut off a helper from Franz Wager before scrambling for a loose ball and returning the favor with a dime of his own to his rookie running mate. Throw in a Moe Wagner three, his third of the game, and Orlando had a 9-2 run going, a burst that forced an early time out by the Hornets.
A steal by Suggs – generated by excellent defensive rotations by Moe Wagner – gifted Hampton an uncontested flush on the break, which the Magic followed up with a pair of lay-ups to Wagner and Hampton. It was now 13 straight points for Orlando, the first double-digit lead of the game at 103-93.
lmao at Jalen Suggs doing the Dwyane Wade airplane thing after hitting ahead to R.J. Hampton pic.twitter.com/dsm9QV2lSM— Evan Dunlap (@BQRMagic) January 15, 2022
Back-to-back triples by the Hornets more than sliced that margin in half, but the good Brothers Wagner were able to right the Magic’s ship. They combined in the two-man game on Orlando’s next few sequences, ultimately compiling a collective 11-2 burst that featured a sublime step-through by Franz, a dagger triple for Moe, and a hammer at the rim to cap the streak. When the dust settled the pair had given the Magic a 13 point lead, putting up a combined 45 points to lead the Magic. The teams ultimately played out the string over the final few minutes, Orlando coasting to a 116-109 win that laid the losing streak to rest.
Orlando’s three stars
Hockey is a pretty great sport, so I thought I would steal one of its best little touches for my own game analysis: the three stars. Here is who caught my eye tonight.
First star: the good Brothers Wagner — I refuse to split them. As a duo they combined for 45 points on 19-28 shooting, adding a collective 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 stocks. Franz was sublime with the ball in hand, Moe knocked down basically everything that came his way, and they both contributed to the disruptive defense that allowed the Magic to clamp down in the fourth. An all-time siblings show-out!
Second star: Jalen Suggs — an awesome return for the rookie, getting onto the board early and then applying defensive pressure all night long. Finished with 12 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds, and was such a ball of positive energy that one can overlook the rust and inexperience evident in some of his turnovers.
Third star: Gary Harris — was a solid scoring option for Orlando all night long, even threatening to bust out a Human Torch impression at one point. Ultimately finished with 18 points (including 4 makes from deep) that allowed the Magic to keep pace across the hectic first three quarters.
The Magic are back in action tomorrow night for the third and final game of the current road trip. They’ll look to continue their winning ways in Dallas against Luka Doncic and the Mavs.