The Charlotte Hornets continue to be a surprise team in the league this year. Currently a four seed in the Eastern Conference, the Hornets have now won their last four out of five games. This team could shape up to be a real contender in the playoffs. Even with Jeremy Lin out of the lineup, they managed to get it done against a struggling Orlando team looking to find their identity.

Kemba Walker scored 21 points and five assists, while Nicolas Batum almost achieved a triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Serge Ibaka of the Magic put on an impressive performance in the first quarter scoring 15 points with two rebounds, two assists, and two blocks.

The Hornets came out swinging in the first few minutes of the first quarter and it started with Cody Zeller. He commanded the paint early, throwing down not one, but two dunks to put his team up 10-4 with 8:20 remaining in the first.

The Magic managed to tie the Hornets and even managed to take a 24-22 lead with the help of Ibaka’s impressive performance. However, Charlotte would ultimately lead 32-28 to end a tight first quarter.

The Magic battled in the second quarter, shooting 59 percent total in the first half. Whenever the Hornets tried to pull away, Magic would cut their lead to three or four points. However, Walker and Batum would combine for 26 points as the Hornets took a 62-55 lead into the half.

The biggest key was a big third quarter explosion. After leading by seven at the half, the Hornets outscored the Magic 35-13. This would be the fewest points allowed to any opponent in any quarter this season.

Magic only made 1 of 11 shots while committing four turnovers. The only bright spot of the quarter for Magic was Jeff Green’s three point play. But in the end, Magic only made 22 percent of their shots and Charlotte lead by 29 to end the quarter. By this point, it was obvious that anyone watching could smell what the Hornets were cooking.

Batum could have had a triple-double, but he did not play in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t needed. However, he has proven to be an underrated player and could be a threat in the near future. The team has been better around him and it has shown this season.

“It looked to me like tonight that we were a very serious minded pro-team playing for something. Trying to get better, trying to do the right things, willing to do the tough things,” said Hornets head coach Steve Clifford.

The Hornets travel back home to host Miami, another struggling team Thursday night. Magic will travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers on Sunday. Their leading scorer Evan Fournier is expected to play after missing three straight games with a bruised heel.

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