Kelly Oubre scored 29 points and reeled in 10 rebounds, but the Charlotte Hornets were outplayed by the Orlando Magic and lost, 117-106.
Kelly Oubre went coast to coast for a dunk to open the scoring as both teams exchanged jabs early on. It didn’t take long for the Hornets to feel the absence of their star point guard once again, with seven turnovers and an early 10-0 Magic run putting the home team in a hole. A 5-0 run that featured a Mark Williams and-1 and one of those random Gordon Hayward dunks helped stopped the bleeding a bit.
HUM DIDDLY DEE!@gordonhayward | #LetsFly pic.twitter.com/xyMPL9bE74— Bally Sports: Hornets (@HornetsOnBally) March 4, 2023
The teams exchanged a pair of mini-runs from there, and the Magic led by five after one.
A sloppy start to the second quarter allowed the Magic to grow that lead to double figures. The Hornets had a few nice moments throughout the quarter, like fast break dunks from Kai Jones and Dennis Smith Jr., but on the whole they were outplayed. The Magic seemed to be playing with more effort and winning the majority of 50/50 balls. They crept out to a 16 point lead by the halftime break. Kelly Oubre was just about the only bright spot in the first half with his team leading 15 points.
The third quarter followed the same script as the first two. Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier served as the only offense for the Hornets throughout the third quarter. They scored 20 of the Hornets 25 points and it was largely off self creation due to the Hornets offensive stagnation. Meanwhile Paolo Banchero scored 18 points for the Magic as they refused to the Hornets make a dent in the deficit. By quarter’s end, the Magic led by 18.
The Hornets bench got off to a hot start in the fourth quarter. They started the quarter on an 11-5 run. Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre checked back in and kept the run going. The Hornets cut the deficit within single digits as the game wound down, but they didn’t give themselves enough time to come all the way back. The game got sloppy down the stretch and looked like the last game of a pickup run where everyone is gassed and only like three people are running at any given moment. The Magic converted enough baskets in that stretch to put the Hornets away.
The Magic played with better energy for most of the night and were only really matched by the Hornets in the late third and into the fourth quarter. That’s evidenced by the 13 offensive rebounds the Magic tracked down, and four of those were by guards.
The loss is a big boon for the Hornets draft positioning. The Magic are the next team up on the Hornets in the standings, so a two game swing in the standings hung in the balance. If the Hornets had won, they’d be just 5.5 games behind the Magic for the fifth worst record. With the loss, the Hornets are now 7.5 games behind the Magic with 17 games left to play.
The Hornets will have Saturday off before visiting the Nets in a slightly earlier than normal start on Monday.