Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 97, Magic 94 (12/26/12)

by Jim Eichenhofer

Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 97, Magic 94

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Hornets (6-22), Magic (12-16)

It was over when… Orlando center Nikola Vucevic’s right-corner three-point attempt at tying the game caromed off the rim, enabling New Orleans to post a dramatic road victory and bring an end to its 11-game losing streak. The Hornets avoided equaling the franchise record of a dozen consecutive defeats by holding off the Magic in the final minute. Robin Lopez preserved a 95-94 edge with a clutch block of Arron Afflalo’s layup try; Greivis Vasquez then sank two free throws with 18 seconds remaining. It was fitting that Lopez and Vasquez (career-best 27 points) delivered in the clutch to ensure the victory - both players enjoyed one of their best games as pros. 

Hornets MVP: Lopez came within one point of matching his career high in scoring, finishing Wednesday’s win with a season-best 29 points. His stellar offensive performance included 9-for-10 accuracy from the field and 11-for-12 shooting from the foul line. Lopez established the Hornets’ competitiveness early, racking up 14 quick points in the first quarter. He tacked on 10 points in the second half while making all eight of his foul shots. “It feels really good,” Lopez said of the long-awaited victory. “We’ve been working hard. Tonight I thought we played well for the majority of the game. The important thing (was), we played hard.” Of his second straight game of 20-plus points, the fifth-year pro said, “(Opponents) really respect Ryan (Anderson) out there, and they respect Roger (Mason). We have a lot of shooters out there. It’s easy for me to get to the basket.” It was the first time in the NBA that Lopez has notched 20-plus points in consecutive games. 

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: In his only trip to Orlando this season after being dealt by the Magic in a sign-and-trade in July, Anderson struggled with his shooting touch early, but was invaluable in crunch time. The Hornets’ leading scorer this season only had six points through three quarters, but contributed nine points in the final period. Along with Vasquez’s eight fourth-quarter points, that accounted for nearly all of New Orleans’ 19 points in the stanza (Lopez added a pair of free throws). Overall, it was a so-so individual night for Anderson, who tallied 15 points on 4-for-11 field-goal shooting (1-for-6 on treys), but he’ll gladly take the victory against the team he played for in the past three NBA seasons. 

The buzz on… more of what the Hornets expected to see on defense in 2012-13. As was the case with the previous two Monty Williams-coached teams, New Orleans hoped to lean heavily on a stingy D that would consistently hold offenses under 100 points this season. That hasn’t been the case, which partly led to a stretch of 20 losses in 22 games, after the team’s 3-2 start. Wednesday’s victory was highlighted by limiting the Magic to 11-for-30 three-point shooting, as well as just 41 second-half points. “We talked about playing defense and playing our style of basketball for 48 minutes,” Williams said. “That’s something we haven’t been able to do for three weeks. We’ll have lapses in play at the wrong time. To have that many guys come into the game and execute a (defensive) game plan, shows a little growth. We’d like to do that on the fly. It’s tougher with a young team, but we’re happy we won the game.”