NBA Suspended Season Simulation: Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Hornets (March 15, 2020)

Our suspended season simulation continues as the Orlando Magic’s offense comes back down to earth but still has enough to defeat the Charlotte Hornets.

When we last left the Orlando Magic, they welcomed back Evan Fournier to the lineup and struggled through a game against the Chicago Bulls. They won in a blowout, but the offense was out of whack. Thankfully the defense had picked itself back up.

We deemed the game only somewhat realistic. But the way things played out with the Magic zooming ahead in the third quarter and coasting to a win seemed reasonable enough.

Since that game, the Brooklyn Nets lost to the LA Clippers, making up that game in hand and leaving the teams tied for seventh. The playoff race narrowed as the Charlotte Hornets would arrive in Orlando.

Like the Magic, the Hornets had been on something of an offensive role. Terry Rozier has been one of the best shooting guards in the league. But it is what James Borrego has been able to do defensively that made the Hornets more dangerous. Especially since adding Bismack Biyombo to the starting lineup. Charlotte was no team to look past, even with Orlando blowing them out in the previous two meetings.

How did our sim go then?

Final
Charlotte Hornets
74
Orlando Magic
81

The Magic’s offense was a struggle all game. Both teams missed five of their first six shots, in fact, and it never really got right for the Magic.

The simulated game had the Magic struggling to deal with the Hornets’ switching and unable to get solid post moves or isolations. There were a lot of late shot-clock shots.

Despite the stellar defensive effort, the Hornets leaked out for a few key 3-pointers and built an 18-point lead in the first half.

Orlando was able to close the gap quickly to start the third quarter. The Magic attacked the inside and were able to get stops to bring it to single digits. It was clear this was going to be a game.

But Orlando still needed a last push in the fourth quarter. Here the Magic did a good job getting to the foul line especially and attacking the inside. Nikola Vucevic led the way with 20 points and 25 rebounds (the high rebound numbers a product of so many missed shots).

The comeback did not really get going though until Markelle Fultz started pushing the pace and making his living inside the lane. He struggled to shoot throughout the game, but score eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to help charge the comeback.

Evan Fournier scored 13 points and Aaron Gordon added 10.

But so much of this game was about defense. Orlando allowed only 23 points and 7-for-47 shooting in the second half, including only 10 points in the final quarter on 3-for-22 shooting.

Orlando came back despite shooting only 8 for 19 in the final quarter. Making 12 of 14 free throws down the stretch was the decisive factor for sure.

So how realistic was this game?

NBA 2K clearly has no respect for the Magic’s offense. They scored 99 points in our simulated game from Thursday against the Bulls and now have just 81 againt the Hornets. At least they respect the defense enough to have both the Bulls and Hornets score less than 80.

So there is definitely a bit of an inversion from where the real Magic left off.

Coach Steve Clifford was right to say the Magic were getting better defensively. But they were not quite this good — this is like early season Jonathan Isaac is still a terror on both ends good.

However, I would say the way this game played out felt fairly realistic.

With how well the Magic are playing right now, they felt due for a bit of a letdown or a game against a weaker opponent that they just do not have good early focus to play in. But like other games recently, the Magic tightened up and played better to rally for a win.

It is a dangerous way to play. But Orlando has proven itself capable in real life to rallying to attention and winning these kinds of games.

With the Hornets rolling on their home court, the Magic came out defensively in the second half and put the clamps in, scoring enough to zoom ahead and win. Maybe in real life, the Magic would have completely outscored the Hornets and not needed some late-game heroics at the foul line to ice the game.

So far, with the Magic at 2-0 since we started simulating the seas, I think we are seeing these games generally play out how they would in real life.

In the rest of our simulated season, the Brooklyn Nets took down the Sacramento Kings in the nightcap Sunday to keep the two teams tied in the race for seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Next: Offensive rebounding a new aim for Orlando Magic

We will be back Tuesday to simulate the Magic’s game against the Detroit Pistons.

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