Orlando Magic persevere to win and close a winning road trip

Paolo Banchero's shooting struggles continued, but he still found a way to contribute to an Orlando Magic win. (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images)
Paolo Banchero's shooting struggles continued, but he still found a way to contribute to an Orlando Magic win. (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images) /

170. Final. 119. 38. 113

Paolo Banchero is not having the best time shooting right now.

He is still able to get to the line at a decent clip, but his shots are not falling with the same consistency or efficiency they did earlier in the season. Defenses continue to throw different and complex coverages at him and no matter what anyone tells you, Banchero is probably hitting his rookie wall.

The team as a whole sometimes feels like it is going through mud. They are still learning how to put teams away and rely on their defense. And it shows with how uneven their play can look, even in wins. Nothing ever feels comfortable.

But everyone has to find a way. And the best players have to find their way. That is what Banchero is learning right now. And that is what this team is learning right now.

So Banchero is doing what he has done this entire season, duck his head in and keep pushing through. The only way to get past the rookie wall is to break through it.

The only way for this Magic team to learn and grow and take the next step — to level up — is to break through the midseason doldrums. And it sure seems that carrot is closer than ever.

The Orlando Magic continue to make their push and learn how to win showing growth this time in their ability to grind out a victory and do whatever they need in an imperfect game to come out the winners.

A 119-113 win over the struggling Charlotte Hornets is hardly anything to write home about. These are the kinds of games a promising or postseason-capable team is supposed to win. These are the kind of games the Magic are still trying to learn to win consistently.

No, Orlando did not pull away and turn their nine-point fourth-quarter lead into a 15-point one. Instead, the Magic simply kept the Hornets at arm’s length. They did not have their best play and struggled defensively, but they sure did enough to earn the win. They stayed in control after taking the lead late in the second quarter and the result of the game became academic.

More importantly, they answered every run from the Hornets. When Charlotte briefly took the lead in the third quarter, Orlando answered in kind, re-establishing their control over the game. They broke through their fatigue and even their poor defense to just hold the line and win.

That is growth in itself — and the Magic are now at 22 wins, matching last year’s win total.

That is a credit to Banchero as much as anyone else.

He continued to struggle with his shot as he scored 22 points on 6-for-20 shooting. he made his living at the line, making 10 of 11 free throws. Banchero did a lot of his work in the third quarter, scoring 11 points on 3-for-6 shooting, weaving his way through the lane and finishing with finesse around the basket.

Banchero is 32 for 104 (30.8 percent) from the floor in his last six games. He has not made a 3-pointer since the Jan. 30 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, missing his last 12 attempts in his last three games.

It has been a struggle. A struggle where everyone has had to lift each other up whether it was the bench coming through in the way they did against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday or how everyone had to lift each other up through the fatigue of a road trip ending.

"“Right now my shot hasn’t been falling,” Banchero said after Sunday’s game. “So I am just trying to find ways I can affect the game whether it’s rebounding, being locked in on the defensive end, assists, other ways. My shot is going to fall eventually. You have to affect the game in other ways. Eventually, the shots are going to fall.”"

This is the attitude the Magic need from everyone. To see their budding star embrace that is important. But so are the moments when he broke through and found the spark again.

Banchero took his turn in the third quarter and found the burst of stardom. He persevered and broke through long enough to help the team survive.

Banchero found other ways to contribute too. He started moving the ball with five assists and made an emphasis on attacking the glass. Banchero is working to contribute in more than the scoring column.

That is what Markelle Fultz was doing the entire game, scoring 16 points on 8-for-13 shooting. More importantly, Fultz controlled the game’s pace completely. He dictated when the Magic would run and when they would slow things down. His fingerprints were all over the game for that reason.

Related Story. Orlando Magic are in most difficult phase of their rebuild. light

The Magic are not a breakneck team and had to do its best to corral the Hornets’ fast-paced play.

Charlotte raced up and down the court to take an early lead, taking advantage of Orlando’s heavy legs and turnovers early. But the Magic reeled them in.

When Fultz wanted to break, he got out on the break. But when he needed to slow things down and work the offense, he was able to.

This is all to say, everyone played a role. And they filled that role. And as the game called for it, players filled in and stepped up.

It could have been Wendell Carter working the post to free up players or Bol Bol whipping a pass to Gary Harris in the opposite corner to spark a 3-point run to Caleb Houstan’s surprising eight points off the bench with Jalen Suggs suspended due to Friday’s fight.

"“I think we locked into our gameplan and got stops when it mattered,” Carter said after Sunday’s win. “We eliminated the two guards that got cooking early in the game. I think we did a good job locking into our scout and understanding what we had to do to get the W.”"

The bigger point of all this is not to say the Magic played a perfect game. They did not.

The Hornets got out in transition far too much, taking advantage of the Magic’s turnovers and moments when they struggled offensively. They made 54.2 percent of their shots, leaving a lot of points at the foul line shooting 11 for 23.

But the Magic do not need to play a perfect game anymore. They are a team that can make mistakes and have to adjust through the course of the game and still come out with wins.

They may not be able to do this against elite teams — although they have competed and won games even with clear flaws and things to adjust to — but they are doing this more and more.

The Magic are a team that continually finds a way to get wins. That is happening more and more now. The team understands how to snap itself back to attention and the kind of fight and effort it takes to win a game and, increasingly, multiple games.

Things are not perfect. This group still has a lot of things it needs to clean up and do.

Next. Jalen Suggs helping orlando Magic win the fight. dark

But it showed Sunday afternoon to close this road trip that this team will persevere through its mistakes. Players will find a way to contribute.

And, most importantly, this team will find a way to win.