Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Hornets: Game Preview

Jalen Suggs
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO – During their back-to-back road set against the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks, the Orlando Magic found out the hard way the importance of bringing consistent energy and focus to both ends of the floor for a full 48 minutes.

For a shorthanded team with a youthful roster, there is little margin for error, especially against the league’s top-tier squads.

The Magic (4-14) will have to put that lesson to use if they hope to pull off a victory against the red-hot Charlotte Hornets (11-8) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

“We have another opportunity against Charlotte (on Wednesday). You have to learn from (the loss to Milwaukee) because it’s little things,” said Magic forward Moe Wagner, who scored a season-high 18 points against the Bucks on Monday. “It’s not the world, it’s just consistency. Doing the little things consistently. That’s the difference. You have to believe in that, and work on that on a daily basis. That’s kind of where we are at.”

Despite winning just one game on their five-game road trip, the Magic have shown flashes of improvement in a number of areas. Over the month of November, they’re third in the NBA in limiting opponents fast break points (9.2) and seventh at limiting opponents points in the paint (41.1) per game. Those areas will be critical against a Hornets team that’s won six of its last seven games and ranks top six in the league in both of those categories.

“Everything is a learning experience and a lesson for us,” said Magic guard R.J. Hampton, who tallied 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists on Monday. “Like I said, and I’m going to keep saying it, we’re young guys, we’re young players that are hungry and want to win in this league and that comes with some punches in the mouth sometimes. You have to take those and keep rolling.”

Orlando will once again be without Cole Anthony, who will miss his third straight game with a sprained right ankle. If Gary Harris is forced to miss his second straight contest with a sprained right foot, expect Mychal Mulder to get his second straight start and Hampton to once again handle the backup point guard duties and lead the second unit.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Whenever you are able to give happiness back, for me at least, that brings me happiness. To see all these people coming through, and smiling, and getting free meals so they can go back home and prepare with their families and have a great Thanksgiving, I don’t think it gets better than that. Basketball is so minute when it comes to doing these things like this.” – Jalen Suggs on his participation in at a recent Thanksgiving meal distribution

KEY STAT: The Magic will debut their newest Nike NBA City Edition uniform against the Hornets on Wednesday night. Orlando's uniforms long known for its pinstripes dating back to the first Magic team in 1989 have returned with a twist on an old classic preserving the orange theme. The Nike NBA City Edition uniform also features the throwback “Magic” script front and center of the jersey along with the iconic star playing a central role, which is a nod to the original font and design. The Magic will wear these uniforms at 14 home games (three road games) this season as part of the team’s City Nights in-game celebration.

IN AND OUT: Harris (sprained right hand) is questionable, while Anthony (sprained right ankle), Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) are all out for Orlando.

For Charlotte, P.J. Washington (left elbow) is doubtful, while Vernon Carey Jr. (G League – On Assignment), Arnoldas Kulboka (G League – Two Way), Scottie Lewis (G League – Two Way), and JT Thor (G League – On Assignment) are out.

RIVALS REPORT: In this edition of our Rivals Report series, we’re once again joined by special guest, Hornets.com beat writer Sam Perley, who’s covered the team for the past eight seasons. He’s a great resource for all things Buzz City, including the Hornets and their NBA 2K League squad. He was generous enough to take the time to answer three key questions heading into their matchup with the Magic.

Savage: “Over the last four games, LaMelo Ball is averaging a triple-double. What have you seen from him over this recent stretch?”

Perley: “He’s just been absolutely spectacular. He’s taken that big second-year jump that I think the team was really hoping he would have coming off winning Rookie of the Year. Even on nights when he’s not scoring or he’s not the most efficient, he’s still finding ways to impact the game. He recently just had a seventeen-rebound game. He had a fourteen-assist game recently during this 6-1 stretch that they’ve been on. He’s averaging over two steals a game. (On Monday) night, he had a big fifteen-point second quarter against Washington. I think that’s what makes him so important because he’s just one of those guys that’s finding ways to impact the game. He makes a lot of hustle plays. His instincts are just off the chart. He’s just the total package. You can see it, evidentially, averaging the triple-double over the last four games. He’s been doing it all right now for this team and he’s really helped propel them during this 6-1 stretch.”

Savage: “Speaking of that 6-1 stretch, we’ve seen the Hornets’ defense continue to make strides. What are you seeing from them on that end of the floor?”

Perley: “I think it took a couple of weeks to get adjusted. I don’t think it was anything that they’re doing different. Finally, things have just begun clicking. They’re doing a little bit more zone coverage mixed into games. They have been getting off to better starts in games. After a loss in Sacramento earlier this month on November 6, they were last or second to last in defensive rating. Since that time, they’ve gone 6-3 and are tenth in the NBA in defensive rating. They’re also top ten or top fifteen, I want to say, in offensive rating. So, they are really starting to play more balanced basketball. They had a couple of wins over the Wizards, once holding them to 87 points and to 103 points (on Monday). They held the Warriors to 102. So, the defense has really helped them. It’s definitely helped them put some big wins on the board during their homestand last week where the team went 4-0, beating the Wizards, Knicks, Warriors, and Pacers. So, the defense has helped balance things out a bit more. They’ve avoided some of the early holes the team was falling into to start games for the first few weeks of the season.”

Savage: “Hard to ask this of a team that’s won six of its last seven, but what are some of the areas that head coach James Borrego is looking for the team to improve upon heading into their matchup with the Magic?”

Perley: “I would say rebounding. I think rebounding is something they’re still trying to focus on. They actually got outrebounded by almost thirty boards against the Wizards. It was something they had been pretty good at. I think they had won the (battle of) the boards for two or three straight games going into it. They just had some difficulties with (Daniel) Gafford and (Montrezl) Harrell, giving up too many second chance opportunities. But they turned the Wizards over a lot – I think they had nine more turnovers – and they hit a lot more threes, so it kind of balanced it out a little bit. I think that’s kind of the focus going into this Magic game is more attention to detail on the boards, limiting the second chance opportunities, offensive rebounds, extra possessions and things of that nature.”

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