Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 106, Charlotte Hornets 83

The Orlando Magic had every excuse to falter in the final game of their road trip. Instead, they gutted it out and defeated the Charlotte Hornets easily.

Final

Orlando Magic

106

Charlotte Hornets

83

For almost the entirety of the Orlando Magic’s road trip, they lived on the edge.

Injuries threatened to derail them. Close games threatened to derail them. Their own inconsistency nearly derailed them. It was a trip they could have finished 5-1 just as easily as they could have finished it 1-5.

With a cross-country finale against the Charlotte Hornets, it seemed the team would have to scrap to get to 3-3 and call the trip at least a moderate success — if not one that still raises plenty of questions about the team now sitting comfortably in seventh in the Eastern Conference.

The Magic showed plenty of signs of fatigue from a cross-country game. Shots fell short. The team’s energy was good, but sometimes they were a bit late. They fouled a lot early as they sought their energy and their center.

Things were always on the edge. The Magic’s 17-point lead born out of a spate of energy and focus and 3-point shooting from Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier got cut all the way down to seven points.

Fatigue was setting in it seemed. Nikola Vucevic missed another short shot. But Markelle Fultz came swooping in along the baseline. He tiptoed the sideline before slinging it back to Nikola Vucevic. This time he finished.

This time the Magic finished. They pushed through any fatigue and everything else they were facing, they found their energy and they found some shots to defeat the Hornets 106-83 at Spectrum Center on Monday.

Orlando trailed early as the fatigue from the long road trip seemed to be setting in. But the team showed a lot of character in bouncing back. The second unit brought the deficit back under control and the starters fed off that energy.

More importantly, the defense stepped up. After giving up four 3-pointers to Devonte’ Graham in the first quarter, he failed to make another three the rest of the game. The Magic held Terry Rozier without a field goal for the entire game, effectively cutting off the Hornets’ most potent offensive attack.

Orlando was able to get out in transition and score easy baskets because of that defense. And the Magic found their rhythm and their flow because of it.

The Hornets never really got free after that first-quarter shooting burst.

Evan Fournier is still feeling a bit under the weather and is still dealing with the quad injury. But he is pushing through and found the energy to deliver a really strong performance for the Orlando Magic. Once he and the rest of the team got warm, they provided a fantastic performance overall.Fournier scored 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting. He hit four of his six 3-point makes in the fourth quarter, helping the Magic stave off a run from the Hornets that nearly brought the deficit to one possession. Fournier was smart offensively, attacking off shot fakes and patiently getting into the lane.

He struggled some with turnovers and chasing Terry Rozier around the perimeter. But he locked in on that end too. The Magic found their energy and Fournier’s timely shooting was a big reason why they eventually pulled away.

The Orlando Magic needed a spark as their offense struggled through the first quarter of the game. The Magic needed to get themselves moving offensively and inspire a bit of confidence. That is Terrence Ross’ role. That has been the role he has struggled with at times this year. The Magic needed to get him open.It did not take much and the Charlotte Hornets’ defense kept losing track of him. But Ross found the space and found the range. And his 3-point shooting, in the second quarter especially, gave the Magic some rhythm to get through the game. Ross finished with 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting, making five of his eight 3-pointers.

Ross continued to add some opportunistic defense to his ledger too. Ross had two steals and was good helping off his man and chasing around the perimeter. The Magic needed Ross to step up and he filled his role perfectly.

There is a lot of hand-wringing about Nikola Vucevic when he struggles to shoot. His touch has not been there as much as the Orlando Magic have come to expect from the past seven years — let alone his All-Star turn last year. Vucevic has regressed and struggled mightily.He was on track for another game like that as he struggled to hit shots and even keep pace defensively. Vucevic seemed a step off where he needed to be to lock down defensively. And the Hornets were getting into the lane to kick out.

Vucevic tightened everything up as the game went on. He found his footing and his energy and gave the Magic exactly what they needed. He finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, making 11 of his 21 shots. He hit some big shots as the game closed, including a banked-in 3-pointer over Bismack Biyombo in the fourth quarter. It turned out to be his night.

The bench groups have had their ups and downs this season. Just like rookie Mohamed Bamba has had his ups and downs in his second season. It is sometimes hard to see the progress he is making. But he is starting to make an impact consistently. Or at least more consistently make an impact.Mohamed Bamba strung together a very nice game again — he has had a pretty good road trip too. He scored four points on 2-for-6 shooting and added four rebounds and two blocks. He was active challenging shots without getting himself out of position. And he grabbed his share of rebounds.

The areas he struggles in are still the areas everyone expects him to. Opposing players can still move him out of the way and that makes it more difficult to rebound. He has to make better decisions with the ball and gain better touch around the basket. But Bamba’s positioning is a whole lot better. And he is making a positive impact when he plays.

The Charlotte Hornets just returned from their own West Coast trip. “Just” might be relative. The team last played Wednesday and had plenty of time to get themselves ready both for this game and their upcoming trip to Paris to play the Milwaukee Bucks. But the Hornets had no excuse not to be ready.They had an initial burst of energy. They worked inside out and got the ball to their shooters. They hit them early on. But then things collapsed. Suddenly, the Magic were forcing them into difficult mid-range shots and runners. Then they collapsed the lane and did a good job scrambling and making second efforts.

Charlotte could not break Orlando down. The Hornets made just 38.2 percent of their shots and 18 turnovers. That is exactly what a tired Magic team needed. And so Charlotte lost a vital game for the team’s playoff hopes.

The Orlando Magic are 21-23 and seventh in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets. The team’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 34 Orlando Magic wins or 34 Detroit Pistons losses.

Next: Orlando Magic must move Khem Birch off the 4 spot

The Orlando Magic return home from their six-game road trip to face the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Amway Center on Wednesday.

 
Published at Tue, 21 Jan 2020 06:20:19 +0000
Source: https://orlandomagicdaily.com/2020/01/21/orlando-magic-grades-orlando-magic-106-charlotte-hornets-83/

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