Charlotte Hornets at Orlando Magic game preview

TV: FOX Sports Florida

Time: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.


There was a time early in the season the Charlotte Hornets looked like an up-and-coming team ready to challenge the Eastern Conference’s elite teams.

With Kemba Walker playing at an All-Star level, averaging 22.3 points per game, the Hornets had a lot of the ingredients needed to succeed: versatility on defense, strong 3-point shooting and familiarity to get off to a hot start.

Charlotte was streaking and ready to make consecutive playoff berths for the first time since the original Hornets were in Charlotte. And the team should still get to that point.

Orlando Magic on FOX Sports Florida

The Hornets will be looking to regain their earlier form and get back on track when they visit another inconsistent team in the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at the Amway Center.

Charlotte has not faced an easy path. Like so many teams in the Eastern Conference, the Hornets have faced their share of inconsistency and dropped into a bunched pack fighting for the last four spots in the early playoff race.

Charlotte’s typically strong defense gave up 120 points against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday. The final shot came on a Randy Foye 3-pointer at the buzzer that sent the Barclays Center into euphoria.

The Hornets were left wondering how to get their defensive identity back and make a turn toward the top of the Eastern Conference.

“We just have to get back to ourselves,” Walker said after Monday’s game. “We just play in spurts way too much, so we have to be better with that.”

Since starting 8-3, the Hornets have struggled to get much traction. They followed a four-game losing streak with a three-game win streak recently before Monday’s loss. And their defense has been just as inconsistent of late, despite sitting in the top 10 overall this season.

That kind of inconsistency is something Orlando is trying to resolve and work through.

The Magic started the season off as one of the top defensive teams in the league, but have quickly tumbled in that ranking. Friday’s 109-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers was the first time the team had held an opponent under 100 points since a Dec. 4 win over the Detroit Pistons.

Orlando has sought to follow those games up with another one after alternating wins and losses for the last few weeks. The Magic appeared to do that in a 112-102 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday. Orlando led by as much as 29 points and held Memphis to 43 points in the first half and 71 through three quarters.

“We’re just trusting each other,” Aaron Gordon said. “We’re doing the right things. We’re listening to the coaches and trying to buy in. It’s as simple as that. We’re buying in to the game plan. We’re holding each other accountable. It’s a major thing. There is no real secret to the defense.”

The Magic have their first win streak in nearly a month and they have done it largely on a renewed energetic play on the defensive end.

Orlando is still reshaping itself and finding its identity. When players and coaches were asked what they believe the team’s identity to be, they all said they wanted to be a defensive-minded team. They have the talent. They just have not played that way consistently.