Kemba Walker was weaving in and out of the defense throughout the fourth quarter and it was his final salvo that put a nail in the conffing for the Magic and made it a very realistic possibility that the Magic finish with the worst record in the league (and the most ping pong balls in May's NBA Draft Lottery).
Walker was trapped on the perimeter and the Magic were switching on every screen. There must have been a miscommunication or a slow rotation because Walker threw the ball toward the rim toward a flying Josh McRoberts who threw down a one-handed alley-oop that made it a six-point game and completed Charlotte's 114-108 win over Orlando at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Bobcats still own the NBA's worst record, but are just a half game behind the Magic in the standings.
In a game with so much offense, Orlando simply ran out of fuel at the end. The Magic played only eight players and had no post players in reserve with the team sticking to its decision to shut down Al Harrington and the team not ready (or unwilling) to play Hedo Turkoglu in his first game back from suspension.
Those eight guys played too exhaustion at the end. The Bobcats closed on a 16-6 run, erasing a four-point Magic lead as the shots ran out for the Magic and the offense slowed enough to give the Bobcats control of the game.
Tobias Harris scored a career-high 29 points, making 10 of 20 shots. However, he drove wildly in a few times and missed shots down the stretch. Jacque Vaughn said he would go over the tape with Harris to see where he can improve in his late-game shot selection.
That kind of learning experience was fine. That is what the Magic want these young players to get these last 10-or-so games to help them in their development going forward.
What was not fine was the exhaustion at the end of the game and how Charlotte seemed to beat Orlando to every loose ball. At the end of the game, it was Charlotte getting to offensive boards and loose balls. In a key sequence Bismack Biyombo and Tobias Harris got tied up on a rebound that Harris might have had otherwise.
Charlotte had fresher legs in a lot of ways. And the Bobcats, after falling behind by 19 points in the first quarter, controlled the pace, looking to run at the Magic. Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson made that strategy work with 34 points apiece. The Bobcats as a team shot 51.8 percent from the floor.
Shots were going in over and over again and the Magic were largely helpless to stop them. The perimeter defense was not particularly strong for either team. Charlotte drove into the paint pretty easily and got whatever shot it wanted.
The Magic's offense had similar success most of the game. They shot better than 70 percent in the first quarter and scored 39 points to take that 19-point lead. It seemed like things would go smoothly as Jameer Nelson drove into the lane with ease and worked the pick and roll with ease. It seemed like nothing could go wrong.
It was that way most of the night offensively. Nelson scored 13 points and dished out 11 assists. Kyle O'Quinn also showed a lot of his skills in the high post as a scorer and passer with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. It was another career night for the rookie.
Losing a 19-point lead though and the way Charlotte paraded into the lane throughout the evening stuck out more than anything.
The Magic might have had only eight players. They might have put out a lineup in the second quarter that featured DeQuan Jones ostensibly playing power forward with Tobias Harris at center. This mismatched lineups led to some choppy play especially with Charlotte keeping Bismack Biyombo in there and runnin hard against the Magic.
This felt like a game, even with all that, the Magic should have won. They had the lead late in the game and never quite lost control of the game until the late stages of the fourth quarter. The Magic could never pull away again, but they did not cede until late.
Call it a missed opportunity to learn to win in this difficult season. Call it exhaustion. It all added up to another loss and another game closer to the season ending.