Charlotte Hornets at Orlando Magic game preview
Since the start of November, only two Eastern Conference teams have a better home record than the Orlando Magic.
Not too shabby for a team that at this point last year had only three home wins.
With only one remaining road game in 2015, the Magic have an excellent opportunity to inch closer to the first place-Charlotte Hornets, beginning with Wednesday night’s visit from the Southeast Division leaders.
Orlando (13-11) opens a stretch of seven of eight games at the Amway Center, with Monday’s contest at New York being the only one on the road before New Year’s Day. The Magic lost both of their October home games, but since the calendar flipped to November they’ve gone 7-2 at home to trail only Cleveland and Indiana in the East.
Orlando didn’t win its seventh home game of 2014-15 until Feb. 11 and finished with the conference’s third-worst home record at 13-28.
The Magic suffered an embarrassing loss to the Cavaliers in their last home game Friday but quickly moved on from that disappointment with Monday’s 105-82 win over Brooklyn.
"This is a big stretch for us. Being at home, there are games that we can win and if we come out and play like we did (on Monday) it will be tough for other teams to beat us," forward Tobias Harris said. "It’s about building consistency and consistency in the way that we play."
Nikola Vucevic scored 18 points and Elfrid Payton added 17 for the Magic, who shot a season-high 53.9 percent and made 9 of 21 3-pointers.
Orlando also got back to playing better defense after allowing Cleveland and Phoenix to average 109.0 points and 53.9 percent shooting in a pair of losses, limiting the Nets to 38.8 percent. Playing under Scott Skiles, the Magic are one of the league leaders in defensive field-goal percentage at 42.6 and improved to 10-2 when holding opponents to 95 points or less.
"It’s just a relief to get back to playing good basketball," Harris said. "(Monday) we played a really good brand of basketball. We moved the basketball and played for each other and it’s a game that we can use as an example to look back on. We’ve got to keep it going and play like this consistently."
Orlando’s 3-point defense will be tested by the Hornets, who are averaging 10.0 made 3-pointers for one of the league’s highest marks.
Charlotte (14-9), which is 1 1/2 games ahead of the Magic, hit 11 3s on Saturday against Boston but also missed a season-high 24 in a 98-93 loss, snapping a four-game winning streak. The Hornets, who made 18 3-pointers the previous night at Memphis, came out with little energy in the second half of a back-to-back.
Being fatigued won’t be an issue this time as Charlotte has had a season-high three straight days off.
"Any couple days off in this league is pretty good," leading scorer Kemba Walker said after Monday’s practice. "Being able to get in here and practice, clean up some things and just get better is always good."
Walker shot 5 of 15 on Saturday after totaling 51 points on 62.5 percent shooting in the previous two games. He had 72 points in his last two games against Orlando, which includes a career-high 42 on Dec. 27.
The Hornets, winners of five of six in Orlando, split the 2014-15 season series by winning twice at the Amway Center.