The game profiled as the perfect trap game, and it was very obvious early on. The Hornets let the Magic get wide open 3-pointers with little effort while the offense was slow and stagnant. A James Borrego timeout seemed to remedy the malaise. They went on a 13-2 run out the timeout to take an early lead. The teams traded baskets for a bit, and that included a couple of explosive Mason Plumlee dunks. The quarter ended with the Hornets nursing a 36-35 lead. The offensive execution was sharp, but the defensive effort was poor enough to let the Magic keep pace.
The Magic came out with a lot of intensity to start the second quarter, and the Hornets took a few minutes to adjust to it. There was a little bit of chippiness throughout the quarter, as a few Hornets seem to take exception to some of the chest thumping by the Wagner brothers, particularly Franz. The entire second quarter went back and forth, and it ended with the Hornets holding a two point lead heading into the break.
The Hornets gave the fans some showtime to start the second half. First LaMelo Ball sent Cole Anthony tumbling away with a step back as he knocked down a three. He stole a pass from Anthony on the next possession and served up this highlight lob to Miles Bridges:
The Hornets momentum didn’t last long, as the Magic reeled off a 13-2 run in response. The Hornets didn’t let the run get out of control and the game settled into another back and forth contest. The Hornets turned to Ish Smith late in the third quarter for an injection of life, and it seemed to work. The Hornets picked up the pace on offense and started forcing the Magic into mistakes on the other end. They briefly took a four point lead as a result of the spurt, but as was the theme of the game, it was quickly wiped away by the opposition. The Hornets were gifted a few free throws by the Magic in the last possession of the quarter, and they used that to set their lead at three heading into the fourth.
A whistle heavy start to the fourth quarter broke up some of the rhythm of the game as the Magic went on a 15-2 run to take an early eight point fourth quarter lead. The Hornets started the quarter 1-for-11 as it looked the game might get away from them. LaMelo Ball finally broke the cold spell with a heavily contested 3-pointer in the corner. Jalen McDaniels made a three from the same spot next time down to get the Hornets back within four. They couldn’t do anything from there, and let the Magic take their lead straight back up to thirteen with under three minutes to go. The Hornets couldn’t make a desperation push from there.
It was an obvious letdown spot with the Hornets coming off three straight wins against Eastern Conference contenders. They came out flat and then looked like they were trying to do too much when the Magic played competitively. This is a young team, and they need to learn how to bring the same intensity regardless of opponent.
They’ll get a couple days off to think about this one before a matinee in New York on Martin Luther King Day.