ORLANDO, FL – It’s becoming obvious. The loss of Markelle Fultz was devastating to to Orlando Magic (7-10) as they once again lost, this time 107-104 to the Charlotte Hornets, (7-9), after holding a lead.
Orlando has had an 1-8 record since losing what was a key to their season, Markelle Fultz.
Without Fultz, their strongest point guard and court general, you can see a big hole in the teams structure, though they are slowly growing to fill it with rookie Cole Anthony, Jordan Bone, Gary Clark, and others stepping up their games.
But, growing takes time.
The good news is, they are finally competing. Since battling against the vaunted Brooklyn Nets in the debut of James Harden with his new team, Orlando has held it’s own through most of the game.
The problem is, they are not closing. Game are coming down to the wire, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
Last week, Anthony hit a buzzer beating 3-point shot for the Magic against the Timberwolves. The next game, it was a shot by the Indiana Pacers Malcolm Brogdon hitting a three with 2.8 seconds left. And last night, Terrance Ross hit a game tying tree with 8.7 seconds left, only to see the MAgic’s interior defense fail against Gordon Hayward, who drove to the basket for a game winning layup to seal the game.
Hawyard could do pretty much anything he wanted let night. He scored 39 points, and torched the Magic from deep, Hayward shot 5 of 8 from three point range, many uncontested. He was by far the high scorer of the game, and the Magic had no answer for him on defense.
For Orlando, who was also missing Point-forward Aaron Gordon who is recovering from soreness to high minutes in recent games, for most of the game, it was even scoring, with many of the players stepping up.
As expected, Nikola Vucevic lead the Magic with 22 points and had 13 rebounds. Evan Fournier stepped up his game to try to take up some of the slack. He scored 21. Cole Anthony scored 14 and had 6 assists, and was very much the floor general for the Magic, leaning more and more as the season goes along.
The Magic were dominating for much of the game, but then came the fourth quarter. The Magic were outscored 33-18 in the fourth quarter.
The key catalysts were Hayward and DeVonte’ Graham. After a cold first three quarters, Graham scored 12 of his 15 points during that stretch and Hayward had 13 of Charlotte’s final 16 points.
Of course, everyone had their eyes on rookie Lamello Ball, who once again came in off of the bench. Ball scored a respectable 11 points with 8 assists, while rocketing passes across the floor to open teammates.
Magic Head Coach was kind of realistic about the games scoring, but was not happy about the Magic’s defensive breakdowns.
“Right now, with all these guys out, there’s going to be times when we’re going to have to hit it right to score with certain lineups, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t get back and defend and rebound,” he said. “And those fast break points were just as big a part of the loss as not being able to score was.”
Anthony expressed his frustrations about the teams’ letting the wins get away from them
“That’s two games back-to-back where we played a great three quarters, and then it’s just that one quarter that we just kind of fall apart and break down,” Anthony said. “So it’s positive because still we’re capable of a playing three really good quarters where we’re outperforming the other team but we have that one downfall and we just can’t have that. So we’ve just got to, as a team, get better.”
The Magic face Charlotte again tonight at 7pm at The Amway Center