Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 117, Charlotte Hornets 108

Cole Anthony scored a career-high 21 points for the Orlando Magic in a bounceback win. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Cole Anthony scored a career-high 21 points for the Orlando Magic in a bounceback win. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

38. Final. 108. 170. 117

When the Orlando Magic are scoring like they did on Monday, everything else comes a whole lot easier.

The Magic did not start well, falling behind early by 15 points in the first quarter. But a burst by the second unit and, in particular, Khem Birch’s energy and offensive rebounding, gave the team a 16-2 run to begin the second quarter to take a 33-32 lead.

There were plenty of three-pointers to go around for the Magic, as the team shot 19 for 37 (51.4-percent), a stark improvement over Orlando’s 33.6-percent average for the season, which ranks 25th in the league.

The Orlando Magic recovered from Sunday’s heartbreaking loss and a poor first quarter to keep their strong offense going and defeat the Charlotte Hornets.

Orlando is not a shooting team. They have struggled all season with their stroke and have had lulls in games where they do not have their rhythm — just look at that 6-for-24 first quarter. That was at the beginning of this game. Players were afraid to pull the trigger and were hesitant to score.

That all changed when the second quarter began. The Magic started attacking.

Cole Anthony set a great tone with the most efficient performance of his young career with a career-high 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting and 4 for 5 from three. He was also chasing down rebounds on tip-ins, and on one play bailed out Evan Fournier after he slipped and fell, catching a pass from Fournier from the seat of his pants and finding Nikola Vucevic for an open three at the top of the key.

The Hornets would go on an 8-0 run during the second quarter to make things closer, but the Magic surged ahead in the third quarter and would go ahead by as many as 20 points. The Magic were able to stabilize, sticking to around a 10-point lead for the majority of the game through paint touches to Nikola Vucevic, who had another All-Star effort.

The Magic needed a clean offensive game with good ball movement, clutch shooting and inspiring energy. They have frankly looked flat at times over the last couple of weeks and the performances haven’t been worth the price of admission from an entertainment standpoint.

The Magic played like a fun team. They played with a confidence that hasn’t been seen since Markelle Fultz got injured.

If more of that is to come, the Magic need to continue to take and make open shots. If that’s possible remains to be seen.

A-. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

Nikola Vucevic is on another level this season, and Monday was no exception. He was the go-to guy in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 28 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. His 3-point shooting has become lethal this season, and he is providing the antidote to the Magic’s shooting woes one game at a time.

Prior to tonight, he was doing it all by himself, but the Magic got into the win column, which has to feel good for Vucevic, who has been carrying a heavy offensive load. He currently leads the NBA in field goals and field goal attempts. He is going to need help on this team from Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and some of the veterans. But for now, he is showing that he could be the best player on the floor any time he goes out there.

A-. . PG. Orlando Magic. COLE ANTHONY

Cole Anthony had the best game of his professional career. Despite only scoring one point in the fourth quarter, he still scored a career-high 21 points. He was the catalyst for so many winning plays on the night. He soars for rebounds, he makes crisp passes and his drives have gotten much more under control.

Earlier in the year, he was much wilder with his approach. In the first quarter, he passed up a three and it was a sign that maybe he was going to be hesitant to shoot the ball. But that was not the case. He shot and made four threes, and has been learning on the job in the NBA. He has really made the most of being thrust into the starting lineup. And tonight was a great first step toward success for Anthony.

B+. . C. Orlando Magic. KHEM BIRCH

Without Khem Birch, the Orlando Magic do not win this game. He provided the energy that the team desperately needed out of the second unit when the starters did not bring the juice initially when the game began.

He always brings the heat out of the gate with offensive rebounding, and Birch had five offensive rebounds in this game and pulled down eight boards overall. Birch scored eight points on 3-for-4 shooting. He is not a volume shooter, he will never be the go-to scorer and he isn’t the star, but he is a necessary cog on the Magic for whatever they want to be going forward.

PF. Orlando Magic. GARY CLARK. B+.

The fourth quarter belonged to Gary Clark for large sections of it. To start the quarter, Gary Clark made a three out of the corner to give the Orlando Magic a 12-point lead. He also obtained an offensive rebound to keep a possession alive. He then made a layup and another three to add to his tally and solidify his role as the glue to the squad during the crucial clutch minutes.

Clark has long been thought of as a bench piece for this team that comes in to try to hit a three and play tough defense. But for the most part, when the game is on the line, stay out of the way. Tonight, he rose to the challenge. The Magic trust Clark, and tonight, he showed them why that’s the case.

B. . 7-10. 12th East. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

The Charlotte Hornets on the second night of a back-to-back looked pretty solid on both ends. Gordon Hayward is playing some excellent basketball and pitched in 24 points. Devonte’ Graham is certainly not afraid to shoot it, and showed it, as he shot 6 for 15 from the field and 4 for 12 from three.

The Hornets were giving the Magic problems in transition early with LaMelo Ball and company pushing the pace. The Magic were able to adjust and find a way to slow down the Hornets attack by being able to score enough on the other end. The Hornets are not an elite team, but the Magic will take any win they can get right now, against anybody.

Next. Orlando Magic must protect Amway Center. dark

The Orlando Magic will take on the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday at the Amway Center. Orlando sits at 8-10, ninth in the Eastern Conference.