Gordon Hayward scored 13 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, including the game winning layup with 0.7 seconds to play, as the Charlotte Hornets rallied from a double digit deficit in the fourth quarter to take down the Orlando Magic, 107-104.
The Hornets brought their turnovers with them from Charlotte to start the game. After winning the opening tip, PJ Washington hit Devonte’ Graham in the ankles with a simple handoff that led to a Magic bucket. Washington bounced back with a couple steals and a couple buckets in the subsequent minutes to make amends for his error. The Hornets struggled to contain the Magic’s offense, which is normally very bad. The Magic were able to get to the basket at will, largely by attacking Bismack Biyombo in screen situations. The defense tightened up a little bit as the bench units filtered in, but not as much as you’d like given the Magic’s offensive ineptitude. The Hornets trailed by five after one quarter despite a strong 10-point quarter from Gordon Hayward.
The first few minutes of the second quarter weren’t any better than the first. When the Magic missed, they got their own rebound until the scored. The Hornets didn’t have as much luck offensively and fell behind by as many as 12 points. LaMelo Ball briefly cut it back within single digits with the most wide open 3-pointer in NBA history after a back court steal, but the Magic quickly got it back. The Hornets were able to get a little bit of a run together near the end of the half to cut the deficit to five before Gary Clark hit the second most wide open 3-pointer in NBA history. Gordon Hayward continued to carry the Hornets offense, finishing with 19 first half points. He was supported by Ball and Miles Bridges, who scored 9 apiece.
The Magic scored on their first three possessions to immediately restore the lead the Hornets had worked so hard to cut into. Once again, the trio of Ball, Bridges, and Cody Zeller were tasked with digging the Hornets out of a hole. We got another peep of the Ball to Bridges connection.
Despite the fireworks from Ball and Bridges, the Hornets couldn’t get any closer.
Devonte’ Graham splashed a triple to start the fourth quarter and pull the Hornets within nine. It was the first bucket of a 7-0 Hornets run that cut the Magic’s lead down to five and forced Steve Clifford to take a timeout. The Hornets eventually tied the game with a pair of Terry Rozier free throws. They took the lead with another Graham 3-pointer a short time later. Then the Magic left Hayward all alone for another 3-pointer. While all this was happening, the Magic offense was a discombobulated mess. Many of the shot attempts were ill advised, and even the more soundly advised attempts were often way off. The Hornets outscored the Magic 25-4 over the first eight minutes of the quarter, which turned a 12 point deficit into a nine point lead.
A Steve Clifford timeout helped the Magic get their bearings. The Magic got unreasonably hot after that timeout, hitting four 3-pointers, the last three of which were heavily contested. The last of those was a Terrence Ross fadeaway in the corner with Gordon Hayward all over him that tied the game with 8.7 seconds to play.
The Hornets isolated Gordon Hayward on Evan Fournier coming out of the ensuing timeout, and he drove past the Frenchman for a layup with 0.7 seconds left on the clock.
This next may sound familiar to those of you that have followed the Hornets for awhile. Steve Clifford’s inbounds play was blown up and the Magic were called for a five second violation. They didn’t even get an attempt to tie or win the game.
Hayward and Graham combined to score 24 points in the fourth quarter. Graham had been silent most of the game, but he got hot early in the fourth quarter to help jump start the Hornets run. Miles Bridges had a terrific game off the bench, finishing with 18 points and stuffing the stat sheet. He and Ball brought a lot of energy to the floor when the Hornets needed it most.
Bridges also gets credit for sparking a fire on the bench between the third and fourth quarter.
Miles Bridges told coaches and teammates he wanted to get out of the zone in 4th quarter and man-up. Borrego said that fired everyone up when Hornets needed a burst— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) January 25, 2021
Miles Bridges said he was ticked at the #Hornets zone breakdowns and challenged his teammates to play man instead: "Put ya'll foot down and guard man-to-man," Bridges said. "And me and one of the assistant coaches had got into it. And I guess that kind of just lit everybody up."— Rod Boone (@rodboone) January 25, 2021
The Hornets have been heavily reliant on zone defense this season, and it’s led to a lot of open 3-pointers for opponents. Apparently Bridges had enough, and that fire and defensive intensity completely ruined the Magic’s offensive rhythm.
This win came out of nowhere and will certainly be a big confidence boost for a Hornets team that had lost four straight coming in. They’ll take on the Magic in a rematch on Monday.