When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Amway Center; Orlando, FL
How to watch: Fox Sports South(east), NBA League Pass
One of the interesting aspects of this covid-modified NBA schedule is the presence of consecutive games between the same opponents. This is the third time the Hornets will play the same team in consecutive games, and the first time that they’ll do so on consecutive nights.
Last night, the Hornets broke the Magic’s heart with a furious fourth quarter comeback that was capped off by a last second, game winning layup from the hands of Gordon Hayward. The Hornets ratcheted up the intensity in the fourth quarter, which led to some horrible shots from the Magic and ignited more transition opportunities for the Hornets offense. The Hornets outscored the Magic 33-18 in the final frame and looked to be the superior team by a wide margin.
The Hornets need to bring that momentum with them to tonight’s meeting. The Magic are one of the worst outside shooting teams in the NBA, but they were able to get going early against the Hornets amoeba zone defense. The Hornets can’t let that happen again. If they play with better defensive intensity, the one dimensional Magic offense shouldn’t be able to put many points on the board. Much like last night, that should let the Hornets get easier looks in transition instead of having to generate offense against a typically stingy Steve Clifford half court defense.
Despite being the second game against the same team in as many nights, this will be a different opponent. Aaron Gordon is listed as probable after missing Sunday’s game with hip and back soreness. Gordon helps the Magic’s offense by providing a huge upgrade in play making and shot creation over James Ennis III (who is questionable) and Gary Clark. He’s no slouch defensively, and is obviously an incredible athlete. He’ll add a new dynamic that the Hornets have to deal with.
For their part, the Hornets will likely trot out the same rotation they did last night. Gordon Hayward will look to score 30+ points for the third straight game while the bench brigade of LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges will look to build off strong performances. Devonte’ Graham overcame a poor start to bury the Magic with three fourth quarter 3-pointers, and it’d be nice if he could get going like that from the opening tip.