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RECAP: Hornets Go Small and Lose Big Lead, Magic Win 105-100









Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

This is Tobias Harris, probably right before he scored Orlando’s 94th point in the paint.

The Story

So THAT’S how Milwaukee felt.

The Orlando Magic, on the back of a 41 point fourth quarter, erase a 20+ point first half deficit and beat a Hornets team that on any given night vacillates between not knowing how to start a game and not knowing how to finish one.

It started well enough. The Hornets took an 11 point lead into the half on 14 points from Big Al and an absurd four block from Bismack Biyombo. The lead looked out of hand at 23, as Orlando’s turnovers kept them from making any kind of sustainable run. But late in the third the Hornets let off the gas and the Magic pulled to within 15.

In the fourth, the Magic went small and the Hornets responded in kind. Rookie guard Elfrid Payton used a suddenly empty lane to score 8 points and the Magic got unbelievable performances from deep reserves Willie Green and former-Bobcat Ben Gordon (9p a piece…seriously).

By the time the Hornets could sub some size and strength in, Orlando had all the momentum and the Hornets fumbled and fouled the game away late.


The offense was humming and purring in the first half when Big Al wasn’t seeing double teams and the Magic were handing the ball to us every other possession. Vucevic wasn’t ready to get physical with Al one-on-one and gave him plenty of space to knock down jumpshots and get off his spin moves.

Special props go out to Gerald Henderson who didn’t let some first half struggles and boo-birds get into his head. He came out in the beginning of the third strong and put up 8 points (including two threes!) to help extend our lead to 23. Unfortunately it was all for naught.

Gary Neal came back from his concussion with a game that reminded everyone why this offense looked so pathetic without him (6/11 17p). He was one of the few guys who could do anything offensively in that fourth quarter.

The offense started to struggle late in the third when we fell back into Kemba and Lance dribble pull-ups and floaters that went begging. Brian Roberts I thought did a nice job of using side pick and rolls to get free for some nice jumpers. The rest of the wings just couldn’t follow suit.

Down 4 with 35 left, we clumsily got into our halfcourt set and ruined any chance of going two for one. Kemba wasted a ton of time dribbling and found a double covered Al Jefferson in the lane. The defense collapsed further and Jefferson opted to try and go up with it instead of kicking out to one of numerous open shooters. The result was a turnover and the end of the game essentially. It was another example of a recent trend of poor late game execution.


The small lineup in question that doomed us defensively began in the fourth quarter when Clifford subbed Zeller out for Williams giving us Kemba-Roberts-Neal-Williams-Maxiell. Clifford would sub Henderson for Roberts about four minutes in but the combined results for Orlando’s offensive was 15 points on 6/6 shooting…in 5 minutes. Most, if not all of that came on Fournier/Green/Payton drives to the rim. Zeller and Biyombo, who had done a masterful job protecting the rim were on the bench. Kemba couldn’t stay in front of Payton if his life depended on it. It was hard to watch.

Two of the key baskets of the game came on Orlando offensive rebounds. The first was a Tobias Harris pull down that resulted in ANOTHER Willie Green three that restarted their fourth quarter momentum, briefly stalled when Jefferson was finally subbed back in.

The other much more brutal defensive rebounding lapse was after two missed Elfrid Payton free throws, the game knotted at 97, Willie Green flies inside untouched for a rebound and tip in to give Orlando the lead and the confidence they needed to finish things off. After what happened in Indiana, one would think the Hornets would focus on this kind of small execution late in this game. But blowing a 20 point lead does crazy things to you.


This was all set to be a bounce back game after a stretch of demoralizing defeats but something happened in the fourth quarter. And I posit that that something was Clifford getting out-coached by Jacque Vaughn. Orlando’s small ball flummoxed the Hornets when Clifford spent all week telling people how “tiny” we are. We played that small lineup for more than five minutes and that was three minutes too long. It felt reactionary and agains introduced a lineup that doesn’t see too much playing time. We let Orlando’s decision making dictate how we played basketball. And bottom line – it resulted in our defense (Clifford’s coaching specialty) sacrificing 41 points in the closing quarter.

Game Notes

  • Okay, the Magic didn’t score 94 points in the paint…it was ONLY 60.
  • Free throw shooting was a big difference. The Hornets couldn’t stay in front of their offense late and it resulted in 23/32 free throws for ORL. Kemba Walker had zero attempts.
  • One of the few things worth remembering about this game was that it was the return of Super Hugo. They decided to bring him back on Classic Night but this felt like something they should have advertised. The crowd size was decent but I think that would have put a few more in the seats.
  • Speaking of crowd size, minutes before the game the crowd looked sparse but by the middle of the first it really filled out. Everything I’m hearing is that traffic around the arena is an absolute nightmare. Tough break for the Hornets that they return at the same time Charlotte is tearing up every street around TWC and forming a street-moat. But it’s a testament to fan-dedication that they keep coming out, even for a game against Orlando.


Clifford: (Orlando’s) two biggest buckets came off of offensive rebounds.

Clifford: They went small and made one-on-one plays

Tweet of the Night

Next Up

Nov. 1st – Charlotte @ MIA – 7p – Fox SportSouth



Overall 3.5%

These late game miscues have to be wearing on everybody. Lance looked frustrated leaving the court, a lot of fans seemed frustrated leaving the arena. Super Hugo did return and it still early, but this was one we needed badly.