A sluggish third quarter ended the Orlando Magic’s winning streak. A dominant one against a fellow division leader may have started another.
The Southeast-leading Magic look for their ninth win in 11 games Monday night when they host the New Orleans Hornets.
Orlando (34-17) appeared to be cruising to a fifth consecutive win Friday, but blew a 21-point lead to lose 92-91 to last-place Washington after being outscored 39-17 in the third quarter. Coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t hide his feelings, claiming the Magic “deserved to lose.”
Less than 48 hours later, the Magic erased an 11-point halftime deficit by outscoring Boston 36-11 in the third quarter en route to a 96-89 road victory over the top team in the Atlantic.
“In a matter of (two) days, I’ve seen the worst quarter we’ve had since I’ve been here in three years and the best now in three years,” Van Gundy said.
Orlando leads the Southeast by one game on Atlanta, and is second in the Eastern Conference with the same advantage on the Celtics.
Part of Orlando’s success in rebounding from Friday’s defeat was good shooting from beyond the arc. The team made 11 of 22 from 3-point range and is among the league leaders at 36.5 percent.
Vince Carter(notes) made 3 of 4 3-pointers and scored 20 points Sunday after getting 21 on 5-of-17 shooting against the Wizards. His production in consecutive games also came after he averaged 9.8 points in 10 games following his return from a left shoulder injury that sidelined him for the previous three.
The veteran swingman, second on the team with 15.7 points per game, may be in for another strong performance against New Orleans (27-24). He’s averaging 27.2 points in 10 matchups - all with New Jersey.
The Magic, 19-5 in Orlando, split two meetings with the Hornets last season, winning 88-68 at home Dec. 25, 2008.
The Hornets are still coping with the absence of injured All-Star guard Chris Paul(notes), but rookie Darren Collison(notes) delivered Saturday in a 104-99 victory at Charlotte that snapped a three-game losing streak. Making his fifth straight start for the injured Paul, Collison scored a season-high 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
“I have a chance to use my speed and quickness,” said Collison, the 21st overall pick who is averaging 16.6 points and 9.8 assists in five games. “Like (assistant coach) Tim Floyd told me, if you have a cannon, shoot it.”
Paul is expected to be sidelined at least a month after undergoing knee surgery Jan. 29.
Collison may also get some help if fellow rookie guard Marcus Thornton(notes) can return from a back injury that has sidelined him the last two games. Coach Jeff Bower said Thornton was making progress and said he could “maybe” play Monday.
Thornton is averaging 10.9 points, but had scored 19.7 points per game while shooting 16 of 34 from 3-point range in his last six games.