Where: Amway Center; Orlando, FL
When: 7:00 p.m. EDT.
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Just two games into the 2018-19 season, the Charlotte Hornets get their first opportunity to take the court as the opponent of Steve Clifford. Clifford joined the Orlando Magic this summer after being relieved of his duties by the Hornets at the end of the 2017-18 season. He inherited a Magic team in the early stages of a rebuild with the hopes of turning them into a playoff contender.
The Magic are coming off a 104-101 win over the Miami Heat in their season opener on Wednesday night. Aaron Gordon led the way with 26 points and 16 rebounds while Nikola Vucevic, D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, and Mo Bamba each chipped in with between 11 and 14 points.
While the Magic offense wasn’t particularly efficient (48.3% TS% and 100.5 points per 100 possessions), they stifled the Heat on the defensive end. The Magic boast tremendous length and athleticism at just about every spot on the roster save for the starting back court of Augustin and Fournier. They held the Heat to under 40% shooting from the field and under 30% shooting from beyond the arc. Defense is going to be this team’s identity, as is expected from a Steve Clifford-coached team.
The Hornets should have an easier time with the Magic offense than they did with the Bucks. The Bucks buried Charlotte in their season opener with a flurry of first quarter 3-pointers. The Magic, on paper, don’t boast that kind of firepower. The aforementioned duo of Augustin and Fournier were the only players in the Magic’s current rotation to hit more than 34% of their 3-point attempts last season. On top of that, only 26.6% of the Magic’s field goal attempts against Miami came from behind the arc, which ranks them as the sixth least 3-point happy team in the NBA.
The Hornets helter skelter and switch happy defense should put a lot of pressure on a Magic team that’s rather devoid of shot creators in the half court. If the Hornets are able to keep up their hot shooting from the second half of the season opener, they can kick this road trip off with their first win of the season.