Magic Stumble Down the Stretch in Loss to Hornets

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

Friday’s game between the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets featured three exciting rookie guards in LaMelo Ball, Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton. All three played well, as the Magic’s duo combined for 38 points and Ball, the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year Award, racked up 27 points, six rebounds and six assists. With the game up for grabs going into the fourth quarter, it was the Hornets’ do-it-all floor general who led his team to a 122-112 victory.

Top Performer

Playing in Charlotte for the first time since signing with the Magic last fall, Dwayne Bacon matched his career high with 26 points. The only Magic player this season who has appeared in every game, he shot 8-of-18 from the field, 2-of-7 from 3-point range and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. The 6-foot-6 guard spent his first three NBA seasons with the Hornets, the first of which with Steve Clifford as the head coach.

Rookie Watch

While Ball is a lock to make the All-Rookie First Team, Anthony is certainly in the running for one of those spots. His 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting on Friday was his second best scoring performance this season. Although unlikely to join them because he didn’t get much playing time prior to getting traded to the Magic from the Nuggets, Hampton continues to make excellent progress. For the fifth straight game, he scored in double figures, finishing with 16 points against the Hornets.

Key Stretch

Up just six at the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Hornets extended their lead to double digits behind a 9-2 run. Nearly everyone on the floor for Charlotte during that run contributed offensively, with Ball, P.J. Washington, Brad Wanamaker and Jalen McDaniels each making baskets.

Key Stat

Mo Bamba set a new career high with 18 rebounds. He had pulled down 15 boards, which was his previous career high, in each of the last two games and has reached double figures in rebounding in four of his last five contests. The Magic, however, were out-rebounded by the Hornets 51-48.

Quote of the Night

“It was pretty cool. He actually wasn’t the only one there. If you didn’t notice, coach Hubert Davis was there on the other side, too. I got a chance to talk with both of them from about twenty to thirty feet, but I was still able to see them. So, I was super happy about that. I will be going back to Chapel Hill after the season to hang out with my guys. That’s the first time they got to see me play in person this season.” Anthony on playing in front of his college coach at UNC, Roy Williams, who recently announced his retirement.

Injury Report

Wendell Carter Jr. (left eye abrasion), Michael Carter-Williams (sprained left ankle), James Ennis III (sore right calf), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation), Chuma Okeke (sprained left ankle), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot pain), and Terrence Ross (back spasms) were out for the Magic. Unavailable for Charlotte were Miles Bridges (health and safety protocols), Devonte’ Graham (right knee discomfort), Gordon Hayward (right foot sprain), and Cody Martin (left ankle sprain).

Up Next

The Magic will play their final home game of the season on Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. The last time these two teams met, which was in Minneapolis in January, Anthony buried a miraculous game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Despite another excellent performance by Anthony Edwards, another burgeoning rookie, the Timberwolves fell to the Miami Heat on Friday night.

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