Banchero scores 29, Magic top Pelicans 101-93

Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3)...
Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero (5) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) and forward Brandon Ingram, right, and guard Josh Richardson (2) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)(Derick Hingle | AP)
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 11:16 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Paolo Banchero capped a 29-point performance with three clutch mid-range jumpers in the closing minutes, and the Orlando Magic defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 101-93 on Monday night.

The first two of Banchero’s big shots broke ties before he hit another to make it 97-93.

“In those moments, you kind of just got to be able to go get a basket. I was confident I could do that,” Banchero said, adding that his teammates “trust me to make the right play.”

“I don’t take that for granted. I don’t take that lightly,” Banchero continued. “We’re close as a group and I think on the court it shows in moments like that.”

Franz Wagner, who had 11 points, added a 10-foot floater from the baseline with 25 seconds left, and Orlando held on from there by holding the Pelicans scoreless on their final four possessions.

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said the game demonstrated why his team needs to defend at a high level.

“Your effort, your energy level, your togetherness — I think those things have to continue to be who we are,” Mosley said.

It was the 30th game in which Banchero scored at least 20 points. That moved him one game ahead of Penny Hardaway for the second-most such games by a Magic rookie. Shaquille O’Neal set the franchise mark with 60 in the 1992-93 season.

“Tonight he did a great job of staying aggressive, getting to the free-throw line … getting to his spots, and knocking them down with confidence,” Magic guard Markelle Fultz said. “When he’s playing like that it helps our team go. Everybody’s super excited for him.”

Fultz and Moritz Wagner each scored 14 points for the Magic, who also got 11 points and 11 rebounds from Wendell Carter Jr.

Brandon Ingram scored 25 points for New Orleans (30-32), which is clinging to the 10th and final Western Conference play-in spot by percentage points over Portland (29-31), with those clubs set to play one another later this week.

CJ McCollum added 18 points for the Pelicans, who’ve struggled ever since star power forward Zion Williamson went out with a right hamstring injury in early January.

“We gave ourselves a chance defensively, but we just have to be better offensively — more crisp and take care of the ball,” McCollum said.

Pelicans coach Willie Green said his team improved in a key area.

“The first order of business for us — playing harder, playing more together — was there,” Green said. “It’s just a tough loss on our home floor. I thought the guys fought. They feel awful about it. This is a part of the NBA season. You have moments where you’re just trying to find your rhythm and confidence, and that’s where we are.”

Orlando led by as many as 11 points when Jalen Suggs’ 3 made it 36-25 at the end of the first quarter.

Trey Murphy III’s 27-foot 3 and alley-oop dunk of Naji Marshall’s lob in transition helped the Pelicans slowly chip away during the second quarter, when New Orleans held Orlando to just 14 points.

Josh Richardson’s pull-up jumper from the top of the key pulled the Pelicans within 50-49 as time expired in the first half.

Orlando led for most of the second half, but never by more than eight, allowing the Pelicans to claw back into an 89-all tie on Herb Jones’ free throw with 4:51 left.

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