ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic on February 14, 2018 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /
The Orlando Magic got themselves in the game heading down the wire. But Kemba Walker proved to be too much, making a big shot and burying the Magic again.
The Magic had a one-point lead on a difficult three-point play. The team was feeling it and making the little effort plays they need to win games. The Magic were scratching and clawing, overcoming their own turnovers and a nine-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. One they erased in a matter of two minutes.
Then Kemba Walker hit a 3-pointer. And all seemed normal again for the Charlotte Hornets in this rivalry.
Orlando’s late-game execution was fine, but that 3-pointer, hit over a contest from D.J. Augustin, seemed to deflate them. The All-Star point guard did it to them again, this time with a clutch shot rather than a scoring barrage — at least, it was not a blowout this time.
The Magic got a missed three from Evan Fournier, a ghastly bit of shot selection for the team as they were looking for someone to deliver late. And Nicolas Batum sidestepped his way to a 3-pointer.
The Hornets held on for an 104-102 victory over the Magic at Amway Center on Wednesday, sending the team to a disappointing defeat heading into the All-Star Break.
No one can doubt the Magic’s fight anymore. This is a team trying to do everything it can to win games now. They are chasing hard after rebounds and sacrificing and playing for each other in almost every way imaginable.
Their defeats are now coming down to the things they should — late-game execution and making or missing shots.
For much of the fourth quarter, the Magic were executing well. They got plenty of open shots and created plenty of good opportunities. The shots just would not fall. There is a disappointment in that for sure. The players want to win and are putting it all on the line to do so.
Orlando though dug itself a bit of a hole it was constantly climbing out of. The Magic were sloppy with the ball throughout the game — particularly in the third quarter when the Hornets opened as much as a 12-point lead. Mario Hezonja joked after the game that he looked up at halftime and saw the Magic down one and thought how.
Orlando committed 20 turnovers leading to 24 Charlotte points. It was a big deficit to climb out of. But the Magic never hung their heads and they kept fighting. They kept going after it and they found themselves ahead in the dying moments.
That is when Walker and his individual brilliance took over. Orlando did not have an answer at the end.