CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coach Jacque Vaughn believes the Orlando Magic have an “unbreakable spirit.”
That was clearly on display on Friday night as the Magic rallied from a 23-point second-half deficit to stun the Charlotte Hornets 105-100.
The Magic trailed 70-47 with 6:41 remaining in the third quarter and still trailed 79-64 going into the fourth, but they erupted for 41 fourth-quarter points and outscored the Hornets 41-21 in the final period.
It matched the third-largest comeback in franchise history.
“We weren’t making shots in the first half, but overall there was a spirit,” Vaughn said. “We had a belief and a confidence. I thought overall there was no panic. That’s what we talked about at halftime, no panic, we’ll get a chance to get back in this game. So it’s a great lesson for a lot of guys in the locker room. It makes your spirit unbreakable.”
Evan Fournier led the Magic with 21 points, but he wasn’t even on the floor down the stretch as backups Elfrid Payton, Ben Gordon and Willie Green made big play after big play. The three combined for 26 of Orlando’s 41 fourth-quarter points.
Tobias Harris finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds, Payton scored 16, Vucevic finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Gordon scored 11, Victor Oladipo 10, and Green nine.
“On the road, being down 23, it’s a great win for us,” Harris said. “Pure magic. Coach tells us, ‘Don’t panic, just play our game’ and we got in a rhythm offensively and we got a bunch of stops we needed and we were able to get the win. We put our head down a couple of times, I know I did, but everybody on the team kept encouraging each other and the coaches encouraged us to dig down deep, and that’s what we did.”
The Magic (6-8) has already won four road games this season, matching all of last season’s total.
“It’s good to see the way we’re playing on the road,” Vaughn said. “I think we’re still growing. I would hope that we don’t always get down 23. That is the next step, to be able to go on the road and build a lead and be able to put your foot down as the game progresses.”
Charlotte led 51-40 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 15-4 run, eventually pushing the lead to 23. The Hornets (4-9) seemed well on their way to breaking a three-game losing streak.
But Orlando whittled the margin down to 15 after three quarters, and then came the 41-point fourth-quarter explosion. Green’s jumper with 3:22 left tied the game at 93-93. Then he gave the Magic the lead for good at 99-97 with a follow shot off a missed free throw with 57.2 seconds remaining.
The Magic shot 71.4 percent from the field in the fourth (15 of 21), and did not commit a turnover. The Hornets, meanwhile, shot 32.1 percent in the period (9 of 28).
“Our defensive intensity level picked up, and we did some creative things offensively and went to a smaller lineup,” Vaughn said. “That gave Elfrid a chance to get into the paint and be creative. And Willie and Ben, those guys have been good lately. Boy, they came through.”
Al Jefferson led the Hornets with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Gary Neal scored 17, and Kemba Walker finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
The Hornets have now lost six of their last seven.
“Obviously, we had the game in hand and two things happened,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “One, at the end of the third quarter, we just lost our intensity. We went from having the big cushion of more than 20 and playing very organized and disciplined on both ends of the floor to playing sloppy. They got it down to a workable margin and in the fourth quarter, they played ultimate small ball. Payton was obviously the key. He had a great fourth quarter.”
NOTES: Hornets F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (stress reaction right foot) missed his fifth straight game and G P.J. Hairston (right ankle sprain) missed his second. But the Hornets got G Gary Neal back after he missed the previous two games with a concussion. … The Magic were without F Aaron Gordon (fractured fifth metatarsal left foot), G Devyn Marble (strained rotator cuff) and C Kyle O’Quinn (sprained left ankle). O’Quinn missed his 13th straight game, but has returned to practice and could be back soon. … Magic C Nikola Vucevic had his 10th double-double of the season, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. That’s the most double-doubles in the NBA. … The Magic will return home to face Miami on Saturday night. … The Hornets will play at Miami on Sunday.
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