Hornets Stumble at Home to End Winning Streak

Orlando Capitalizes on Charlotte’s Poor Shooting, Turnovers for Hard-Earned Victory
by Sam Perley

More Coverage: Game Gallery | James Borrego Postgame | Ball Postgame | Bridges Postgame

Sometimes the difference between winning and losing in the NBA simply comes down to which team has a higher level of urgency. Such was the case on Friday night for the Charlotte Hornets as a young Orlando Magic squad battled its way to a 116-109 victory to snap a 10-game slide.

LaMelo Ball led all five Charlotte starters in double figures with a team-high 23 points and eight assists, while Orlando reserve Mo Wagner had 26 points, marking the second-highest scoring game of his career. Bench scoring proved to be a major difference in this one though, with the Magic topping the still Kelly-Oubre-less Hornets, 55-19.

Charlotte outscored the Magic by exactly one point in each of the first three quarters to enter the fourth with a 91-88 lead. Orlando really came alive then though, opening the frame on a 15-2 run to go up by 10. After the Hornets drained consecutive 3-pointers, the visitors pieced together another 11-2 stretch to put this one in the bag.

“Disappointing loss. I thought [Orlando] played harder. They were the more aggressive team,” said Coach Borrego afterwards. “They acted like we did the last couple games. Credit to them. We have a ways to go. We couldn’t make a shot [at the start of the fourth]. That didn’t help. We got good looks – just couldn’t make a shot. Tough loss, but we move on though.”

Charlotte shot just 12-of-42 from 3-point range (29%) and committed an uncustomary 17 turnovers leading to 27 Orlando points. The Hornets’ defense had been trending in the right direction lately, but allowing the Magic to shoot 25-of-31 at the rim (81%) certainly wasn’t indicative of that recent progress.

Added Borrego, “They had 50 points at the rim. We couldn’t make a shot from three. We couldn’t get to the rim. All our kick-outs, we just could not find it. We basically scored 12 points in the fourth – we had a couple late [threes]. Our defense could have sustained us, but when they needed a big shot, big bucket, they got to the rim. Fifty points at the rim is just too many.”

After notching two wins over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and another in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, it would have been easy to assume going into this one that the Hornets should have no problem handling the last-place Magic. That’s not how things work in the NBA though, where a 7-win team on a 10-game losing streak is capable of beating anybody on any given night.

“Obviously, we didn’t handle our wins appropriately,” said Borrego. “For whatever reason, the mindset wasn’t there tonight.” Added Miles Bridges, “I said [before the game] we couldn’t relax against this team and that’s exactly what we did. Those guys came out, played hard, punched us in the mouth, did all the little things. We can easily get up for the Warriors or Bucks, Nets game, but when we play like these types of teams, we have to get up and approach the game the same way. That’s a sign of maturity and that’s not what we did.”

Next up for the Hornets is a two-game road trip starting with a matinee against the New York Knicks on Monday, Jan. 17 beginning at 1 PM ET.

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