Down by 23 points in the third quarter on the road Friday night, the Orlando Magic could have been excused for turning their attention to Saturday night’s visit by the Miami Heat.
Instead, they turned more than a few heads in recording one of the largest comeback victories in franchise history.
Led by a lineup which included rookie Elfrid Payton and veterans Willie Green and Ben Gordon, the Magic defeated the Charlotte Hornets 105-100. The win was the fourth away from home for the Magic in nine games, matching their total for all of last season. While that was newsworthy in itself, there was much more to the victory than that.
Except for Evan Fournier, who had missed their loss Wednesday night to the Los Angeles Clippers because of a bruised left heel, the Magic couldn’t get going offensively, especially during a 14-point second quarter that left them trailing 51-40 at halftime. The Hornets were once up 70-43 before the Magic trimmed eight points off the deficit going into the final 12 minutes.
Payton gave the Magic their first lead since the early going when his jump shot put them up 97-95. Even with Victor Oladipo playing in his fifth game after returning from a facial fracture, it was Payton who ran the offense down the stretch.
The Magic also won after being down 23 points at Charlotte in April 1996. The franchise record for the largest deficit overcome in a victory is 25 in November 1989 at Cleveland in the Magic’s first road game ever.
THE TURNING POINT
The Magic outscored the Hornets 41-21 in the fourth quarter and went ahead to stay on Green’s putback of a missed free throw by Payton with just under a minute remaining.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKERS
Payton, Gordon and Green accounted for all but two of the Magic’s 38 points off the bench, with 26 of their points coming in the fourth quarter. Gordon, who languished on the end of the bench in Charlotte for most of last season, didn’t enter the game until 3:33 to go in the third quarter.