Charlotte Hornets

December 11, 2013

Orlando Magic hold on to beat Charlotte Bobcats in sloppy outing

The Charlotte Bobcats got to 10-11 this early season on energy, defense and rebounding. There wasn’t enough of any of that Wednesday, which is why they lost to the Orlando Magic, a team on a six-game losing streak.

They didn’t shoot well Wednesday, but when has shooting well been a given for the Charlotte Bobcats – even on their best nights – this season?

The Bobcats got to 10-11 this early season on energy, defense and rebounding. There wasn’t enough of any of that Wednesday, which is why they lost to a team on a six-game losing streak.

The Orlando Magic converted 14 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points, catapulting them past the Bobcats 92-83 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Yes, the offense was worse than normal. The team’s top three scoring options – center Al Jefferson, shooting guard Gerald Henderson and point guard Kemba Walker – shot a combined 11-of-42 from the field.

But the thing the Bobcats could count on this season was defense and rebounding, holding opponents to a single shot per possession. That formula disintegrated against an Orlando team that hadn’t won since Nov. 27.

The Magic played four of those losses without center Nik Vucevic, hampered by a sprained ankle. Vucevic returned to the lineup and played well Wednesday, with 12 points and 14 boards. But that doesn’t explain this:

“We got outworked on the glass … For whatever reason we didn’t have the physicality or whatever,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said.

“We could have shot like that (37 percent) and won, but we gave up 17 (second-chance points). If they’d scored eight, or scored 10, we’re right there.”

The Bobcats trailed by four with less than three minutes left before Magic point guard Jameer Nelson (17 points) hit a 3-pointer and a layup to put the game away. This was an Orlando team that has plenty of liabilities, notably 28th among 30 teams in scoring defense (allowing 102.3 points per game).

But the Bobcats kept the Magic in the game by not closing out defensive possessions. They entered the game allowing just 9.33 offensive rebounds per game, second-fewest in the NBA. Yet the Magic had 10 offensive boards in the first half alone.

“Not nearly enough energy at both ends to win an NBA game,’’ Henderson said of his team’s performance Wednesday.

Henderson had great games in four meetings with the Magic last season, averaging 22.8 points on 55 percent shooting from the field. He finished Wednesday with a team-high 12 points but shot 3-of-14 from the field. Jefferson was 4-of-10 and Walker was 4-of-18.

“That’s three of our main scorers. We feel like we can attack a lot better than that,” Henderson said. “I didn’t feel like we took bad shots, just that they didn’t go in.”

Clifford used the word “readiness’’ to describe his team’s failing Wednesday. When a question implied that might be linked to youth, Clifford wasn’t buying it.

“There are young guys who play hard every night and old guys who don’t,” Clifford said of the NBA culture. “No matter how old we are, we weren’t ready for the next step, and that’s disappointing.”

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