Seven-game winning streaks never really feel like seven-game winning streaks. They're too much of an intermediate number to really pin down. Win streaks of two or three are notable, since the most recent loss is still fresh in the memory (and since, for the longest time, the Bobcats didn't have very many win streaks). Win streaks of ten or more definitely feel like they've been going on forever; just ask anyone who follows the Golden State Warriors. A seven-game win streak just feels like it's been a short while since the last loss, so those tend to move the team up the standings without necessarily grabbing everyone's attention.
Maybe it's just that I failed to notice that the Charlotte Hornets had won seven straight until they lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, but in many ways, it doesn't seem as if that's the end of the Hornets' stretch of great play. For one thing, the loss to Dallas saw so many things go wrong for the Hornets, while still keeping the game close, that it's unlikely that all those things will happen in conjunction again soon. For another thing, they're playing the injury-battered Orlando Magic tonight in a game that should get them right back on another winning streak.
To be clear, Orlando isn't the easiest team to beat in the world. The Magic beat the Hornets by 15 points in December, and they're almost certainly the best last-place team across the divisions. But when you have an offense that already struggles to score (26th of 30 teams in offensive efficiency), then lose your best offensive player (Nikola Vucevic) and your top facilitator (Elfrid Payton), it's going to be a rough recovery.
Payton will be replaced by Orlando's deadline acquisition Brandon Jennings, whose inconsistency has marred him for approximately his entire career, but has looked like he's stepped his game up somewhat since being traded, although he's not at the level he was performing at last season. Vucevic will be replaced by...I don't know. Dewayne Dedmon? If it's Dedmon, he's solid enough defensively to have an impact on the game, but won't be relied on much on the offensive end, where Orlando will certainly need all the help they can get, especially against a Charlotte defense that again ranks in the top ten in the NBA.
The Magic defense will improve a little bit with Vucevic out of the lineup, but it probably won't be enough to make a difference. The Magic struggle around the perimeter, leaving opposing shooters open from three, and often failing to make the correct rotations in time to get a stop. Dedmon is more mobile than Vucevic, so there will be a few more drives that get cut off, but that won't affect the Hornets too much. The Magic defense is a gambling one, and is at its most effective when creating turnovers, something that will likely be hampered by the absence of Payton. Of course, the Hornets rarely turn the ball over anyway, so this is just another advantage for Charlotte.
In order to win, the Hornets won't need a massive strategy change. Sticking to the gameplan will likely be enough to end up with a victory. They'll still need to hit open shots (something that didn't happen the way it normally does against the Mavericks) and not give up cheap fouls-- something they've done a great job of avoiding all season.
Thankfully, against an injured opponent with only pride to play for, the Hornets should be able to get back to another winning streak. Here's hoping they'll break off another seven in a row without me noticing.