Nikola Vucevic remembers well.
So does Aaron Gordon.
Orlando Magic fans certainly do.
The Charlotte Hornets have had the Magic’s number for four years.
The Magic couldn’t have delivered a sweeter Valentine’s Day victory — or a more dominant one.
Gordon, who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, called the victory a “paradigm shift.” Gordon, Vucevic and Evan Fournier have been with the Magic for each of those 13 losses to the Hornets.
“They’ve been whooping us for so long. After that one, who knows what’s going to happen next time we play them but I’m happy we got this one,” Gordon said.
More importantly, perhaps Thursday’s victory said more about where this Magic team is heading as the all-star break arrives. They came into the game on a four-game winning streak, but the Hornets represented something more than just an opponent standing in the way of a fifth straight victory.
This was a team that has owned the Magic in recent years. The Hornets had won the previous three games by scores of 137-100, 120-88 and 125-100.
Payback was delivered in a big way.
The 38-point margin of victory was the largest of the season for the Magic, who last beat the Hornets on Dec. 6, 2015.
“It feels great,” Vucevic said. “We really wanted to get this one. It was a great win for us. We played really great, maybe our best game all year long.”
Second-year forward Jonathan Isaac, who reached double figures for the eighth time in the past nine games, said he especially felt the importance of ending the Hornets’ dominance over the Magic.
“I was thinking about it all this entire time from shootaround to the game time, just not wanting to not think about the break, [and] just having my mind and my energy just focused toward winning this game for us because it was big,” he said.
Vucevic recorded 17 points and 11 rebounds for his 41st double-double of the season for the Magic, who won five straight games for the first time since the 2015-16 season as newly acquired guard Markelle Fultz watched from the bench.
Isaac finished with 16 points and Fournier had 12 while Wes Iwundu had 11 points to help the Magic bench outscore Charlotte’s 64-38.
Every Magic player scored.
Orlando (27-32) has won seven of its past eight as it continues to pursue an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“Really pleased [with the win],” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “Just like with the approach we’ve had here this last whatever stretch of games, nine or 10 games, the defense especially. They [Hornets] missed some open shots early tonight, too, which happens some nights, so the ball bounced our way a little bit. But we’re playing a lot better.”
Playing a lot better has Magic entering the all-star break just half a game behind the Pistons (26-30) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The Heat (26-30) are ninth.
In fact, the teams sitting in the six through 10 spots — the Nets, Hornets, Pistons, Heat and Magic — are separated by just three games.
The Magic can point to their five-game winning streak as one reason for the logjam. If they continue to play at the same level, their playoff chances will grow significantly.
During that stretch, they’ve outscored their opponents by an average of 23.2 points a game.
Isaac said the Magic have played at a high level for much of the season but have figured out how to maintain more consistency.
“I think the thing is, we’ve been doing this from the start,” he said. “We’ve had games where we’ve been up 20 and 15, and plenty of them, but I think this team is growing in maturity to the point where we’re finishing games out. We’re getting that big lead and closing games out.”
The Magic were in playoff form against the Hornets (27-30).
Orlando tied its season-high for points in a half as they rolled to a 71-36 halftime lead behind 14 points from Ross and 13 from Isaac. The Magic shot 54.2 percent from the field and outscored the Hornets 24-0 from the 3-point line and 29-9 in bench points.
The Hornets were 0-for-16 from the 3-point in the first half and wound up 4-for-31 for a 12.9 percent night. That’s the lowest 3-point shooting percentage allowed by the Magic this season. The previous mark came Saturday when the Bucks shot 17.1 percent (6-for-35).
Malik Monk scored 15 points to lead the Hornets, who have lost four of their past five.
Hornets point guard Kemba Walker, who came in averaging 25 points this season against the Magic, managed just 10 points. He was 4-of-20 from the field and 0-for-7 from the 3-point line.
He came into Thursday’s contest with five straight 30-point games but never got on track after missing his first five shots.
Hornets coach James Borrego, who was an assistant coach in Orlando under Jacque Vaughn and served as the interim coach after Vaughn was fired in 2015, said his team lacked focus but also pointed to the Magic as a reason why.
“Not competing, not having pride about your job, not making shots,” he said. “You’ve got to give them [Magic] credit. They shot the ball very well; they played well. Give them credit.”
The Magic made 17 3-pointers, had 32 assists on their 48 field goals and committed just six turnovers. That’s a good recipe for success.
“I think that we’re making less mistakes. We’re giving fewer possessions away. We have a number of guys playing at a high level,” Clifford said.
With 6:04 left in the first half, Vucevic — the team’s leading scorer on the season — had just two points and only one field goal attempt, but the Magic still led by 24. It showed the balanced effort the Magic were getting.
“They were collapsing on him [Vucevic], and he was making the right play,” Clifford said. “And look, I mean, again, we made 17 3s. When the ball goes in the basket, everything becomes a little easier.”
The Magic resume play Feb. 22 at Amway against the Chicago Bulls. Tipoff is 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on Fox Sports Florida.
On Twitter @osroyparry