Notable and Quotable: Magic at Hornets

By Dan Savage

Dec. 4, 2017

CHARLOTTE -- If the Orlando Magic have ever needed Nikola Vucevic to string together back-to-back 30-plus-point performances, now’s the time.

The Magic look to end an eight-game skid against the Hornets when they visit Charlotte on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

Vucevic was brilliant against the Knicks on Sunday afternoon, erupting for a game-high 34 points, while shooting 13-for-19 from the floor.

The Magic’s big man once again connected from beyond the arc and has now made a 3-pointer in 17 of the Magic’s 24 games this season. He’s also attempted a triple in every single contest.

“It just makes things a lot more difficult defensively for opposing teams, especially with Vooch shooting the three now,” Hornets point guard Kemba Walker said. “That’s tough for some fives in our league to try and get out there with him, so it definitely mixes things up for the defenses of opposing teams.”

His dynamic displays on the offensive end have assisted in opening up the floor for Orlando and are now a staple of opposing scouting reports.

“Any time you have one through four that can really step out and shoot the basketball that changes things, but when you have a five man that can do it, it really, totally opens up the floor,” Hornets forward Marvin Williams said. “It definitely does change things with Vucevic actually stepping back and shooting threes as well.”

Vucevic is well aware of how his outside shooting and playmaking have altered the floor for the Magic.

“I feel like offensively, I can do a lot for our team spacing the floor, even when I catch it,” Vucevic said. “Not necessarily score, but handoffs, pick-and-rolls and all that, it attracts the defense and opens up a lot for my teammates.”

WALK THIS WAY: The Magic won’t catch any breaks tonight on the injury front as Kemba Walker will return from a left-shoulder contusion that sidelined him for the past two games.

“I’m playing,” Walker said after the Hornets' morning shootaround. “No limitations, I’m going to go out there and play as many minutes as coach gives me, so hopefully it’s a lot.”

Walker is currently leading all Eastern Conference point guards with 22.3 points per game this season, and ranks fourth overall in the NBA. He torched the Magic in their first meeting this season, pouring in 34 points and dishing out 10 dimes.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge; we haven’t won there in a while.” Vucevic said. “Kemba, we always have a hard time defending him, but we’ll look at that with the coaching staff and see if we can maybe make some adjustments on how we defend him.”

AARON ASCENDING: It’s no secret that Aaron Gordon is having an amazing 2017-18 regular season campaign. After becoming just the sixth player in Magic history to notch multiple 40+ point games in the same season, you start to catch the eyes of others around the league.

But don’t put Williams in the bucket of players who are surprised by A.G.’s emergence. After all, he’s had an eye on Gordon since the electrifying power forward laced them up with the University of Arizona.

“He’s got the ability to shoot the ball from three, play off the dribble going either way, very, very strong and explosive, good defender too as well,” Williams said. “He’s definitely going to be the total package here in the league for a long time.”

QUOTE TO NOTE: “They are very well coached and they have a ton of talent over there. Obviously with Vucevic, Gordon and (Evan) Fournier, the addition of (Jonathon) Simmons, Elfrid Payton is able to be super disruptive on the defensive end. Also, guys have evolved offensively as well. They have a lot of guys who can really play.” – Marvin Williams.