The Orlando Magic closed out the 2015-16 season in Charlotte on Wednesday, falling to the Hornets, 117-103. While the Magic were looking toward next season, Charlotte was hoping to obtain a higher seeding in the upcoming NBA playoffs.
Charlotte trailed both Atlanta and Miami in the Southeast Division and needed a victory to have a chance to move up from the six seed they held heading into the game. They did their part, but despite losses by the Heat and the Hawks, Charlotte lost the tiebreakers and will be seeded sixth.
Orlando did not phone in their effort. Both Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon came back from injuries to play in the season finale. Victor Oladipo sat out his third straight game.
The Magic trailed only 13-11 with seven minutes left in the first quarter, but Charlotte closed the period on a 25-11 run to take a 38-22 lead. Al Jefferson’s layup gave the Hornets a 52-31 advantage with 7:26 left in the half. They led 66-50 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Magic began to slowly inch back into the game. Ersan Ilyasova hit a three-pointer to bring Orlando within 75-67. Gordon was fouled at the buzzer and made both free throws to send the Magic into the fourth quarter trailing only 86-79.
Jason Smith’s jumper less than a minute into the fourth quarter cut the lead to only 86-84. Just as quickly the Hornets re-assumed control.
A three pointer by Spencer Hawes capped a 20-8 run and put Charlotte on top 108-94 with 4:11 to play. The Magic would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
Jefferson had a huge game, scoring 26 points off the bench. Troy Daniels added 13.
Gordon and Evan Fournier led the Magic with 22 points. Vucevic added 17.
Orlando finishes the season with a 35-47 record. While they still missed the playoffs, they finished 10 games better than they did last year. They are already looking toward next season.
“Everybody need to get better, it’s as clear as day,” said Gordon. “We’ve got to get over the hump. It’s going to be a big summer for us.”