Streaking Magic hope to finally solve Hornets
One of the NBA's hottest teams seeks to end a long losing streak when the Orlando Magic host the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night in each team's finale before the All-Star break.
The Hornets have beaten the Magic 13 times in a row, including six straight at Orlando. The streak includes a pair of one-sided Charlotte wins this season -- 120-88 at Orlando in October and 125-100 at home on New Year's Eve.
Charlotte (27-29) will take the court as the top team in the Southeast Division, but the Magic (26-32) have demonstrated the better form of late.
Orlando has won four in a row, including blowout wins at Milwaukee -- which was without Giannis Antetokounmpo -- by 20 points, Atlanta by 16 and New Orleans by 30 on a three-game trip that ended Tuesday.
"You want to go into the break with confidence, and we're doing a pretty good job of that," guard Evan Fournier told reporters after the win at New Orleans. "Now we have one game remaining against a team that's given us trouble in the past. It's going to be interesting to see how we respond to that."
The Magic had lost three in a row on the road before responding brilliantly on the just completed three-game trip.
Balanced scoring and impressive defense have been the keys to recent success. Jonathan Isaac shined on the trip, averaging 18 points and 3.3 blocks.
Orlando has done nothing right against the Hornets in recent years. The Magic were especially poor in 3-point shooting in the two earlier meetings this season, going a combined 16-for-66 (24.2 percent).
Charlotte will be wrapping up a four-game trip that's been highlighted by a 129-120 win at Atlanta. The Hornets sandwiched that victory with a pair of subpar offensive games in 99-93 and 99-90 losses at Dallas and Indiana, respectively.
If there's an issue for the Hornets on Thursday night, other than playing a fourth road game in nine days, it's all the hoopla that awaits when they return home to host the All-Star festivities this weekend.
Team owner Michael Jordan took time earlier this week to remind basketball fans that Charlotte can boast of more than just hosting the All-Star Game this season.
"It's still up to us to make this city proud about this team," he expressed to reporters. "We're still committed to do that. We still have a lot of work to do in terms of making the fan base even more proud about playing in June. To me, that's still major focus. Major."
The Hornets will be represented in the All-Star Game by Kemba Walker, who was named a starter for the first time in his career and has scored 30 or more points in each of his last five games.
Walker had 26, including five 3-pointers, in the 32-point win at Orlando in the first week of the season, then 24 with seven assists in the 25-point home win two months later.
Charlotte added a bit of a new look in Monday's loss at Indiana, with Shelvin Mack making his Hornets debut after being claimed off waivers.
Mack, who scored in double figures 18 times off the Memphis bench earlier this season, went scoreless in 12 minutes.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 13, 2019