Hornets-Magic Preview

BY foxsports • January 21, 2016

The Orlando Magic have nobody but themselves to blame for their poor play this month.

They must dig deep to avoid a season-high fifth consecutive defeat Friday night against the banged-up Charlotte Hornets, who look to snap a 10-game road skid that began in Orlando.

Sitting 19-13 at the end of December, Orlando (20-21) had reason to feel good heading into the new year. However, all the confidence the Magic had has likely vanished since the calendar flipped to 2016.

After averaging 104 points and shooting 51 percent to win seven of the final nine in 2015, Orlando has scored 88.7 per contest and shot 42.2 percent while going 1-8 in January.

"We've got to figure this out,'' forward Aaron Gordon told the Magic's official website. "It has to come from within us. It's not going to come from anything outside."

Orlando might have bottomed out Wednesday while blowing an early 10-point lead and trailing by as many as 14 in a 96-87 loss to Philadelphia. Magic opponents are hitting 48.8 percent of their shots - 45.9 from 3-point range - in the last four games.

''Our lack of competitiveness is frightening, really,'' said coach Scott Skiles, whose team is below .500 for the first time since Nov. 25 and 0-4 at the Amway Center in 2016. "Our goal right now should be just simply to win a game.''

That might remain difficult if Victor Oladipo misses a third straight game with a sprained knee. He averaged 20.4 points and went 18 of 27 from beyond the arc in his last five.

"We have to find a way as a team to sneak out a win, build some confidence and find some momentum," said forward Tobias Harris, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds Wednesday.

"Obviously, we're frustrated as a group, but we have to stay positive and be ready for the next one."

Harris was one of seven players to score in double figures as Orlando shot a season-high 55.8 percent in a 113-98 home win over the Hornets (19-23) on Dec. 16 to initiate their longest road slide since dropping the final 14 of 2012-13. Charlotte, which won five of six at Orlando prior to this season, has averaged 96.8 points, shot 41.4 percent and yielded 106 per contest during the skid.

The Hornets have dropped 16 of 25, but are 2 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Things could get even tougher if starters Nicolas Batum (toe) and Cody Zeller (shoulder) are unable to play after leaving Wednesday's 109-95 loss at Oklahoma City. Charlotte is still minus Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (shoulder), who could be nearing his season debut, and veteran Al Jefferson as he continues to recover from last month's knee surgery. Key reserve Jeremy Lamb could miss his fifth straight with a sprained toe.

"That's life in the NBA, every team goes through it," center Spencer Hawes said. "Unfortunately it's all kind of hit us here at once. Everybody has to be ready to contribute more when they're asked."

That already includes rookie forward Frank Kaminsky, who has averaged 15.5 points and 6 boards in the last four games.

Teammate Kemba Walker followed Monday's career-high 52-point effort in a double-overtime win over Utah with 21 against the Thunder. He was held to 12 but had nine assists at Orlando last month.

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