Orlando had yet another outstanding performance in their dominant 27-point win over the Spurs. Sharp shooter Evan Fournier starred, posting 25 points in only 26 minutes. Against his old team, Jonathon Simmons chipped in with 17 points off the bench. The Magic were on defensively, keeping San Antonio to 33% shooting from the field and a pitiful 16% from the perimeter.
The Magic were a ridiculous 57% from the field and 47% from the arc. They also punished the Spurs for their turnovers, scoring 29 points off turnovers to their 13. Orlando’s hot run has left them with a 4 and 1 record, with that solitary loss coming in a shootout against the Nets, who they returned the favor to a mere few nights later.
The Hornets have had an up and down start to the season. Their most recent outing saw them taken care of with ease by James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Kemba Walker did all he could despite the loss, putting up 26 points and five assists while frontcourt teammate Dwight Howard posted 19 points and 16 rebounds against one of his former teams.
Outside of that, only two players were able to score in double figures, Jeremy Lamb (20) and rookie Malik Monk (10). They’ll be looking to bounce back hard against the Magic to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Three keys to the game
Defense – Coach Steve Clifford has got his team back to their defensive roots, elevating them to third in defensive rating so far this season. Their defense will be crucial to stopping Frank Vogel’s men who are second in offensive rating. The Magic have also been lights out from three, shooting 45.5% from the arc, good for first in the league. Additionally, they’re fourth in overall field goals percentage at 48%. It’ll be a battle of offense vs defense in this one.
Rebounding – The addition of Dwight Howard has made the Hornets a top three rebounding team. The big men of the Magic will need to box out the likes of him, Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminski to stop them from getting second chance possessions. If they can nullify them on the boards, it will go a long way to Orlando getting the win.
Points off turnovers – The Magic are 7th in the league for points off turnovers (19.2). Their opponent on the other hand is the third worst in the NBA (13) for generating points off turnovers. Orlando quite simply are a better team in transition this season while outside of some of their guards, the Hornets struggle in the open court. Charlotte will need to take care of the ball to stop the Magic from generating any offense off their mistakes.
Matchup to watch
Evan Fournier vs Michael Kidd- Gilchrist – Fournier has been one of the keys to the Magic’s success, namely on the offensive end. He’s been averaging 22.2 points per game on spectacular shooting percentages, 54.1% from the field and 56% from three. While MKG is by no means an offensive force, he’s one of the league’s top defensive stoppers. It’s a clash of styles and an intriguing matchup to keep an eye on throughout the night.
Orlando Magic projected starting lineup
PG – D. J. Augustin | SG – Terrence Ross | SF – Evan Fournier | PF – Aaron Gordon | C – Nikola Vucevic
Charlotte Hornets projected starting lineup
PG – Kemba Walker | SG – Jeremy Lamb | SF – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | PF – Marvin Williams | C –Dwight Howard
With Magic starting point guard Elfrid Payton still questionable to return to the lineup with an ankle injury, look for All Star Kemba Walker to take advantage of the talent mismatch with D. J. Augustin. Despite a relatively average field goal percentage (41.4) Walker has been lights out from three, shooting 44.4% on 5.4 attempts. Look for Kemba to put up a line somewhere in the realms of 25 points, seven assists, five rebounds and a steal.
Both teams are relatively even money in this matchup. The hometown advantage certainly helps the Hornets cause as they look to redeem themselves with a win after a sloppy performance against the Rockets. The Magic aren’t a consistent commodity at this stage, so look for Charlotte to win this one, but keep an eye on for how big the spread is.
Catch this game on league pass and local channel providers. Tip off is at 6 pm ET at Time Warner Cable Arena.
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