Magic Forward Paolo Banchero Misses Second Straight Game, Magic Dominate Nets 108-81

Orlando, Fla. (AP) — Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero was sidelined for the second consecutive game as the Magic faced off against the Brooklyn Nets at Kia Center on Tuesday night. Banchero, who had been available for the first 57 games of the season, was listed as questionable heading into the matchup and ultimately missed out after a pregame workout.

Orlando, Florida, USA, February 27, 2024, Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner #22 attempt to score at the Kia Center. (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

In his absence, second-year pro Caleb Houstan took the starting spot alongside Jalen Suggs, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner, and Wendell Carter Jr. against the Nets (22-36), allowing the Magic to employ a more versatile lineup to better exploit offensive opportunities.

Coach Jamahl Mosley emphasized the team’s collective approach before tipoff, highlighting the importance of cohesive ball movement, offensive confidence, and defensive solidity. The strategy paid dividends as Houstan contributed 9 points, hitting 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, while tallying 6 rebounds and 2 steals.

The Nets, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, were without starters Ben Simmons and Cam Thomas due to injury concerns, furthering the challenge for the visitors.

Orlando, Florida, USA, February 27, 2024, Brooklyn Nets guard Dennis Schroder #17 moves towards the basket at the Kia Center. (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

Franz Wagner’s performance took center stage as he led the Magic’s scoring charge with 21 points on an efficient 8-for-11 shooting in just 28 minutes of play. With Banchero unavailable, Wagner’s ability to navigate increased defensive attention became pivotal for Orlando’s offensive rhythm.

In addition to Wagner’s standout performance, Moe Wagner (16), Markelle Fultz (12), and Cole Anthony (12) provided valuable contributions off the bench, ensuring a well-rounded scoring effort for the Magic. Despite Dennis Schroder’s team-leading 15 points for the Nets, Orlando’s stifling defense limited Brooklyn to less than 40% shooting from the field.

The Magic, now 33-26 for the season, faced another setback as forward Jonathan Isaac sat out due to a left knee strain suffered in their previous outing against the Atlanta Hawks. However, Isaac expressed optimism about a swift recovery, indicating a potential return for Thursday’s matchup against the Utah Jazz.

Reflecting on Isaac’s injury, Coach Mosley commended the diligent efforts of Orlando’s training staff in facilitating player rehabilitation and maintaining optimal physical condition throughout the season.

The Magic will host the Jazz on Thursday in the continuation of their three-game home stand, aiming to build on their recent victory against the Nets. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM and will be broadcast on Bally Sports Florida.

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