The Orlando Magic started Wednesday night’s game in Charlotte in strong fashion and finished the game even stronger. However, what happened in the second and third quarters was too much to overcome and the Hornets came away with a 107-99 victory.
The game featured long runs by both teams, but Charlotte’s was far more decisive. The Magic were still missing center Nikola Vucevic and point guard Elfrid Payton. They were missed as most of the Orlando starters were ineffective.
Things started well enough for the Magic. In the first quarter, they were cutting, weaving and passing crisply.
Victor Oladipo was an offensive force, pouring in 15 first quarter points to help the Magic move out to a 30-24 lead at the end of the period. Whatever went right in the first quarter went doubly wrong in the second.
Orlando still led 35-27 with 9:19 remaining in the half, but the Hornets went on a 22-2 blitz to take charge of the game. Nicolas Batum was the chief antagonist scoring 18 points as Charlotte took a 61-43 lead into the halftime locker room. The Hornets outscored the Magic 35-13 in the period.
“They just kind of turned it up on both ends; that led to spreading the floor and making threes,” said Magic Coach Scott Skiles. “You’ve got to be able to put your foot down and somebody’s got to make a big basket for you, make a good defensive play and have a run of your own.”
The Hornets pushed the lead to 90-64 with 2:18 left in the third period. Orlando closed the period on a mini run to trail 92-71 after three quarters.
Other than Shabazz Napier, Skiles used every player available to him as he searched for a combination that could compete with Charlotte. He found it off the bench with guys like Devyn Marble and Andrew Nicholson off the bench.
Marble hit a trio of three-pointers and Nicholson a couple of key shots in the fourth quarter. A 12-0 Magic run brought them within 100-94 with 3:44 remaining. Despite the strong effort at the end, the Magic would get no closer.
Oladipo led the Magic with 25 points while Brandon Jennings added 16. It was an off night for Aaron Gordon, who was held scoreless, while Evan Fournier was limited to nine points, including 0 for 5 beyond the three point arc. Nicholson had 13 points and Marble finished with nine.
The Hornets were led by Batum and Marvin Williams, who each scored 26 points. Cody Zeller had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Magic fell to 29-38 on the season. The Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Amway Center on Friday night. On their last visit on December 11, the Cavaliers destroyed the Magic 111-76.