Orlando Magic Grades: Charlotte Hornets 104, Orlando Magic 94

The Orlando Magic could not get out of its own way as fouls and turnovers prevented them from extending their win streak, falling to the Charlotte Hornets.

The Orlando Magic were frustrated clearly by constant fouling and the yo-yo play of Kemba Walker, constantly putting pressure on their weak interior defense. A close game turned into a double-digit deficit thanks to a run late in the second quarter from the Magic’s longtime tormentor.

Orlando kept fighting. The Magic got some great plays form their depleted second unit and made it a game.  This was a game they could grind out if they could just get it to the finish line. On the road, all they wanted was a chance at the end. That is all anyone can ask for.

Orlando was always chasing that chance. The Magic were never able to get over that hump. And down by one, their chances to come all the way back slipped away. Frustration over a foul disparity and the poor defense that caused it eventually gave way.

Marreese Speights picked up a frustration flagrant foul, shoving Cody Zeller after a dunk. That changed the momentum of the game as the Hornets stretched their lead back out to double digits. Orlando missed opportunities — Elfrid Payton missed a layup down four points that the Hornets took back the other way for a 3-pointer.

The Charlotte Hornets kept a constant attack, getting to the foul line for 40 free throws, including 14 from Walker in a 104-94 win at Spectrum Center on Monday. Walker kept the pressure on the Magic’s defense all night long, driving deep into the paint and keeping the Magic off balanced. Walker is fantastic at drawing contact and the Magic kept bumping him and putting the officials in a spot to call fouls.

Orlando did not help itself on the other end either. The Magic shot just 43.9 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 20 times. Those two statistics had as much to do with the loss as the fouling and trips to the free throw line.

The Magic had their chances to win the game and let it slip through their fingers. They did not make the plays they needed to keep it close and give themselves a chance in the end.

JONATHON SIMMONS

SG, Orlando Magic

B

Jonathon Simmons took on the role of scorer for the early part of this game and was a key offensive piece for the Orlando Magic. He was trying to get to the basket and force the issue for the team throughout. It helped him score 11 points early in the game.

Jonathon Simmons finished with 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting. he did a lot of his damage driving to the basket. While he was not able to get to the foul line, he was smart at getting his shot off. If anything, the Magic needed to go to him more and get him to force things in the lane. The Magic were unable to get to the foul line and could have used Simmons forcing some of that action.

But maybe that would not have been the best idea. Simmons committed four turnovers, including three in the first quarter. That helped the Hornets get back into the game and take the lead to end the first quarter. The Magic needed a bit more consistency from him because someone had to.

MARREESE SPEIGHTS

F/C, Orlando Magic

C-

Marreese Speights has proven himself to be a game changer in many ways. When he is making shots, he can put up points in a hurry. And that has won games for the Magic. There are times when he turns things the other way. He is looking for his shot. So when they do not go down, he can be a bit of a drain. And then there is Monday night. . .

Speights was not having a good shooting night. There is no getting around that. He doubled down how bad the night was with an unnecessary flagrant foul that turned a close game into a runaway. His shove of Cody Zeller may have been calculated to try to reinvigorate the Magic. Really it seemed like a continuing feud from a few possessions before. A turnover allowed a second straight bucket for the Hornets and Speights reacted to trash talk. It did not feel like it came at the right time. Charlotte never looked back from that point.

Speights shot just 1 for 7 from the floor. He made some decent defensive plays, but he was certainly not a strong defensive presence. Speights was not good defensively overall. The one thing he cannot do is compound all that with a big mistake.

EVAN FOURNIER

G/F, Orlando Magic

B

Evan Fournier seemed to get himself back on track this game. With Aaron Gordon struggling to get free from Marvin Williams or make much of anything, Evan Fournier was back in the driver’s seat. For better or for worse.

Fournier scored a team-high 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting. He hit on 3 of 7 3-pointers, becoming a reliable option when the offense broke down. Fournier hit plenty of bailout shots when the Magic were struggling to break down a stout Hornets defense. He was a consistent one to turn to.

Of course, the Magic really need more than just Fournier to get themselves over the hump. And Fournier has his own shortcomings. He was trying to force things some, but could not draw contact to get to the foul line. He often tried to shoot around the bigs in the paint or through them rather than taking the contact. That remains a problem for him. he shot just two free throw attempts. The next evolution in his game is getting to the basket.

Similarly, on defense, he often looked a bit outmatched by his matchup in Nicolas Batum. His defensive communication was not always at its best

WESLEY IWUNDU

G/F, Orlando Magic

B

Wesley Iwundu got his first meaningful minutes of his young NBA career, recording nearly six minutes of action at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter. This has been a move many have asked for some time. And with Mario Hezonja fairly ineffective at the 3 in the first half. Iwundu’s energy made a difference.

Wesley Iwundu grabbed a rebound and made a nice pocket pass to Bismack Biyombo for one of his two assists. Bismack Biyombo finished it with a one-handed slam. It was an impressive stretch. It was easy to see how much he can help the team.

But it was also easy to see his just a rookie. He got beat backdoor by Jeremy Lamb on one play and then made a poor defensive rotation on another. He was definitely a bit wide-eyed. But, overall, a solid debut (in meaningful minutes) and plenty more to build on and explore in another run in the rotation.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

9-13, 11th East

B+

The Charlotte Hornets needed a win bad, losing all four games with Kemba Walker out of the lineup. They were pressing a bit as Walker figured out what he could do. By the end of the second quarter, Walker was cooking. And Walker was cooking the Magic as he always does.

Walker finished with 29 points on 7-for-16 shooting, making all 14 of his free throws to boot. Walker was certainly a bit rusty with his shooting. He did not hit 3-pointers particularly well. But Walker recognized that and went on the attack. He went right at Nikola Vucevic, putting him in foul trouble. He hurled himself at defenders again and again and the defenders could not avoid the contact.

The Magic did a good job on the Hornets outside of the fouling, to be honest. Orlando gave itself every chance to win the game. But the Hornets kept being able to get to the foul line. Charlotte’s defense gave Orlando fits as it rotated out and took advantage of sometimes uncrisp passing.

The Orlando Magic return home from their two-game road trip to take on the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday at the Amway Center.

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