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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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