Magic Stumble Down the Stretch in Loss to Hornets

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

The Orlando Magic started the game hot. They also came out of halftime hot. That wasn’t the case during a critical juncture of the fourth quarter, though. Up two with under nine minutes left, the Magic suddenly went cold, coming up empty on seven out of eight possessions midway through the final frame before falling 120-111 to the Charlotte Hornets at Amway Center.

Top Performers

During their high school days, Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. discussed the possibility of teaming up in college. That obviously didn’t happen, as Bamba enrolled at Texas and Carter went to Duke. Now together in Orlando, the two are jelling as they figured they would when they had those conversations as teenagers. Carter recorded 20 points and 10 rebounds on Wednesday, while Bamba tallied 14 points and 10 boards. Cole Anthony also had a strong performance, going for 24 points, his second 20-plus-point game of the young season.

Rookie Watch

Franz Wagner made his first five shots, three from 3-point distance, and finished with 15 points. He has scored in double figures in every game so far this season and is shooting 51.9 percent overall and 41.7 percent from beyond the arc. Even more impressive has been his defense. He had a block and steal in Wednesday’s contest.

Key Stats

The free throw disparity was critical. The Hornets took 11 more foul shots, making 83.3 percent of them. Interestingly, coming into Wednesday’s matchup, Orlando and Charlotte were tied for fourth in the league in free throw attempts. Turnovers, as they have been in the early portion of the season, were a problem for the Magic, who coughed it up 19 times, eight in the fourth quarter.

Injury Report

Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Markelle Fultz (left knee), E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) and Chuma Okeke (right hip; bone bruise) were out for Orlando. Terry Rozier (right ankle sprain) and P.J. Washington (right knee sprain) were out for Charlotte.

In the News

On Tuesday, the Magic signed Mychal Mulder to a two-way contract. Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, the 6-foot-4, 185-pounder brings 3-point shooting and toughness to this young squad. Now 27, Mulder played with the Golden State Warriors last season, averaging 5.6 points and shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range. He spent a few years in the G League after playing his college ball at Kentucky, where he was teammates with several Wildcat greats including Jamal Murray, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo.

Rivals Report

LaMelo Ball taking another big step in his game is no surprise. Miles Bridges, now in year four of his NBA career, doing the same was a little less anticipated. The 6-foot-6, 225-pounder has now scored over 20 points in four straight games. Could he be this year’s Julius Randle? It’s obviously extremely early in the season, but the 23-year-old Bridges is the league’s Most Improved Player to this point. No longer just a jump-out-of-the-gym athlete, he can beat you with skill and touch, things not as sharp earlier in his career.

Quote of the Night

“With a young team that we do have now, I have to do a better job of being more of a vocal leader. Just encouraging the guys. If we miss a shot, even when it was a good one, take the next one. We believe in you. I’m telling Franz (Wagner). I’m telling Jalen (Suggs) that all the time. That’s just something I have to do a better job of and that’s something that I can change next game.” – Carter

Up Next

The Magic head out on a three-game road trip, starting with a voyage north of the border to play the Toronto Raptors on Friday at 7 p.m. This will be the first meeting between Scottie Barnes and Jalen Suggs, the fourth and fifth overall picks in the 2021 NBA Draft. Like Bridges for Charlotte, OG Anunoby looks like he’s going to have a breakout season. Through the Raptors’ first four games, the 6-foot-7, 232-pounder is averaging 17.5 points. The Raptors are back playing in Toronto after making Tampa their home a season ago due to the pandemic.

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