The Magic destroy the Hornets 112-92, focusing on defense

ORLANDO, FL – The Orlando Magic (41-28) flat out destroyed the Charlotte Hornets (17-52) on Tuesday night in a monumental step towards the young Magic team’s playoff dreams.

From the start of the game, the Hornets couldn’t stand a chance. Orlando came out of the gate shooting 60% from the field, holding Charlotte to one for five shooting from deep and a 27-17 first quarter.

Orlando, Florida, USA, March 17, 2024, Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony #50 rushes forward at the Kia Center. (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

Orlando continued, building a 35-point lead in the first half, tying a franchise record, completely taking the Hornets out of the game early.

In the second quarter, Orlando extended the scoring, outscoring Charlotte 40-15 in the quarter. The key focus was on defense.

“I think our guys did a great job of getting after the basketball, defending without fouling,” said Orlando Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “The pressure was there from each individual; I just thought we did a great job defending, getting steals, and getting out and being able to run.”

Jalen Suggs was a force by himself, scoring 16 points, with six assists and three steals. His role for the game was that of “The disruptor.”

Orlando, Florida, USA, November 29, 2023, Orlando Magic player Jalen Suggs #4 celebrate after scoring takes a shot at the Amway Center. (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

“First-team all-defense, that’s what that looks like,” said Mosley. “I think he had a couple of situations where he actually just stole the ball, and… you think it’s a foul because of how aggressive he was. He’s doing it because he’s beating guys to spots, he’s so disruptive, but it’s what he’s capable of doing on a consistent basis. He’s the head of the snake. He’s the first one on defense: As he’s picking up full court, getting to the basketball, that back line is making sure they’re protecting him, sticking to our principles and knowing what we’re capable of doing, but he starts it all off. His energy, his enthusiasm, it just carries over from him and onto the next guy.”

In an unusual game for Orlando, Cole Anthony was the top scorer for the Magic, with 21 points coming off the bench. The usual high scorers, Paolo Banchero (13 points) and Franz Wagner (11 points), didn’t have to play their usual number of minutes because of the scoring, so Anthony was on the floor for 21 minutes, shooting three for five from deep.

With this win, and a Brooklyn Nets loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Orlando Magic secured at least the final spot in the play-in tournament. The play-in tournament, once a goal for this team, is now achieved, with the team looking to do far better in this year’s playoffs.

“It’s great, honestly,” said Suggs. “I think it’s really special to keep a group together. We’ve lost small pieces. We’ve added small pieces but this same core group, we’ve all been here. Like you said, just seeing how it was when we’re losing. Seeing how it was when we’re struggling. Continuing to find our way individually and as a unit. Now to this year, it all kind of [came] together. You know, you see the camaraderie, the joy, the competitiveness, and just how much everybody’s grown individually and as a unit; all [coming] together is just beautiful to watch. Honestly, it’s beautiful to be a part of. – So to see it all together, you know, winning, having fun, and getting ready to play competitive basketball is a blessing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The Magic face off against the Pelicans on Thursday at the Kia Center at 7 pm.

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