Postgame Report: Magic at Hornets

By Josh Cohen
Dec. 4, 2017

CHARLOTTE – Defending the pick-and-roll has been a challenge throughout the early portion of the season for the Orlando Magic, who rank 25th in the league in opponent pick-and-roll scoring when the ball-handler is the shot-taker and maker.

Particularly against, statistically, the second best pick-and-roll scorer in the NBA, Kemba Walker, this weakness becomes more conspicuous.

It’s in many ways why the Magic have struggled so mightily against the Charlotte Hornets over the last few years, the latest a 104-94 loss on Monday at Spectrum Center. Orlando has now lost nine straight to Charlotte.

Walker posted 29 points and he did most of his damage at the free throw line, where he made all 14 of his attempts. Throughout his career, Walker has flourished against the Magic, averaging over 20 points and six assists in 25 games.

“He can shoot, he might have top-five handles in the league and it’s a tough coverage for bigs because he’s so small, he can penetrate, he’s moving very well with the ball,” Magic guard Evan Fournier said. “He’s an All-Star.”

Most significant on the stat sheet was the free throw disparity, as the Hornets shot 33-for-40 from the line while the Magic were 12-of-14. Also, Orlando committed 20 turnovers, which led to 29 Charlotte points.

Fournier recorded 18 points, including 12 in the third quarter, Jonathon Simmons scored 15 points and Aaron Gordon had 14. Fresh off his 34-point performance in New York, Nikola Vucevic had a quiet scoring night (10 points) but contributed in other areas (eight rebounds and five assists).

The excessive fouling cost the Magic, but otherwise they did a solid job defensively. They limited Charlotte to 40.5 percent shooting from the field and 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) from 3-point range.

A major turning point occurred with 9:15 left in the fourth quarter when Frank Kaminsky’s dunk in transition was followed by a Marreese Speights flagrant foul for his part of an altercation with Cody Zeller. Shortly before, the Magic had cut the deficit to one. The lead ballooned back to double-digits minutes later.

Ever since Jonathan Isaac sprained his ankle in early November and even more so when Terrence Ross injured his knee last week, the Magic have needed the bench to step up. They got boosts during stretches from D.J. Augustin (13 points), Arron Afflalo (six points) and, while he didn’t score in six minutes of action, rookie Wes Iwundu.

“Everybody on our team, they fought hard,” Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel said. “Our bench turned the game around, had a nice little run in the first half and a nice little run in the second half. Their bench countered and played well. Credit the Hornets for getting the ‘W’.”