NBA Basketball

Hornets looking for offense with Magic up next

The Charlotte Hornets have concerns about offense after this week's injury pinch that has altered the available personnel.

An ideal tonic for the Hornets could be arriving Friday night, when the visiting Orlando Magic come to town.

The Magic have serious challenges on defense, giving up more than 120 points in each of their last three setbacks. That includes Wednesday night's 139-117 loss at Milwaukee.

"We have to look at it and understand where we can be better," Magic coach Jamahl Mosley. "Protecting the paint early. ... This is a resilient basketball team."

And apparently a perturbed group as well.

"We're going to take our anger out on Charlotte," Magic guard Cole Anthony said.

The Hornets conclude a four-game homestand while the Magic will be wrapping up a three-game trip.

The Hornets had a season-high five-game winning streak end with Wednesday night's 105-91 home loss to the Phoenix Suns.

It was the first game since the season-ending ankle fracture suffered by point guard LaMelo Ball. But Ball had been out for stretches earlier this season, so playing without him is a hindrance but certainly not a rarity.

"We've got to figure out the offense here," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "When you lose someone like (Ball), it's not just his scoring -- it's his shot creation. So we have to figure out better ways to sub so we don't have those stretches where we have lineups on the floor where it's going to be hard to score or we're super dependent on one guy or two guys."

Kelly Oubre Jr. moved back into the starting lineup.

The Hornets also have been without starting forward P.J. Washington for nearly a week because of a foot injury, though Clifford said he's expected back soon.

When Ball was out earlier in the season, a considerable chunk of playing time went to guard Dennis Smith Jr. He's bound to be called upon for a heightened role again.

"We're missing two of our starters and they were both guys that averaged double digits," Smith said. "It's kind of tough, but we've just got to adjust."

That's going to put premiums on areas other than scoring in order for Charlotte to put together an encouraging finish to its season.

"We're going to have to defend, rebound, be low (in) turnovers every night," Clifford said.

Among the positive developments for the Hornets is the continued emergence of rookie center Mark Williams. He has three double-doubles in a row, becoming the franchise's first rookie with that many consecutive double-doubles -- points and rebounds -- since the spring of 2005 (Emeka Okafor).

On the other bench, Orlando rookie forward Paolo Banchero -- former Duke teammate of Williams -- is learning to adjust.

"Teams are mixing up how they're playing him," Mosley said.

The Magic have alternated wins and losses for nearly a month. That win-loss rotation has existed for 10 games, beginning when Orlando won 119-113 at Charlotte on Feb. 5.

The Hornets lost 113-93 on Oct. 28 at Orlando and gained revenge with a 112-105 victory Nov. 14 at Orlando. The Magic won the Feb. 5 meeting despite Ball's 33 points.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 2, 2023

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