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Hornets take on Magic in last game of 2018

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The Charlotte Hornets will usher in the new year with a visit from their old coach.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (17-18) vs. Orlando Magic (16-19)

When: 6:00 p.m. EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Charlotte Hornets are coming off a very poor road performance that dropped them below .500 after a strong performance in the previous game. The Hornets look like they’re about to get over the hump, and then they fall back down.

This season is like Ninja Warrior’s warped wall. The Hornets are the contestant, and a record two games over .500 sits atop the wall. Every time the Hornets get a fingertip on that top ledge, they lose their grip and slide back down to the bottom.

Their next run at the wall comes tonight, and it’s against their old head coach. Steve Clifford’s Magic are teetering. They’ve won back to back home games against the Raptors and Pistons after losing seven of their nine previous contests. They sit just one game behind the Hornets despite a net rating that’s 5.5 points worse. They are the anti-Hornets- somehow winning almost as many games as they lose while being thoroughly outscored on the season.

The last time these two teams squared off, the Hornets took the Magic to the woodshed in their own building. James Borrego’s group held Orlando to just 10 first quarter points en route to a 120-88 blowout. That’s the kind of defensive performance JB will be looking for after an embarrassing defensive showing on Saturday.

This is the first of two home games against teams with losing records before the Hornets hit the road for a six game road trip. It’s not a must-win game, but it’s a “you really should win this game if you want to give yourself your best shot at making the playoffs” game.