Where do the Orlando Magic go in the clutch?
If Franz Wagner struggles then late when the game slows down like this, who does do well in clutch situations?
Surprisingly, then, Paolo Banchero actually had a good run in clutch situations.
He averaged 27.2 points per 36 minutes while shooting 42.2 percent shooting and 40.0 percent from deep in clutch situations. He certainly seems like he has the DNA for it.
He had a big finish against the Pelicans when he scored a flurry of points down the stretch to close that game out. He was the embodiment of the growth the Orlando Magic made from their February overtime loss to the Miami Heat to the March overtime win — one of the biggest wins of the season.
This is the kind of play that a typical closer makes and was the bright spot in a rough February as Banchero scored 28 points in this big win. Banchero scored eight points in the final four minutes to put that game away.
And this is simply the kind of shot that Banchero can make that no one else on the team can.
Teams tend to over-rely on isolation plays late in games. There is something romantic about a mano-e-mano battle with the game on the line.
If that is the case, Banchero averaged 3.2 isolation possessions per game last year. Franz Wagner was second at 1.1 per game. Paolo Banchero scored 0.85 points per possession in isolation, good for third on the team (Markelle Fultz led the team at 1.02 points per possession) and in the 41st percentile in the league.
Still, this is an area Banchero can improve. Franz Wagner led the team with 1.4 field goal attempts per game where the closest defender was 0-2 feet away, making 48.1 percent of those shots. Banchero took 1.3 such attempts at 34.1 percent. Not for nothing, Fultz took 1.2 of these attempts per game at 59.5 percent.
Banchero led the team with 7.7 field goal attempts per game with the closest defender 2-4 feet away, making 45.6 percent of those shots. Wagner took 6.7 of these attempts at 52.3 percent and Fultz took 6.4 attempts at 51.6 percent overall.
This is part of the overall efficiency Banchero has to improve. But the Magic turned to Banchero a lot in these situations. They believe he will get there and so this is an investment in him.
It is also clear that if the team plays things right, even misses in this situation can put the team in a good spot. That is what happened on the Wendell Carter game-winner against the Detroit Pistons.
This play is set up for Banchero to get downhill. The Magic have put the ball in his hands to win this game. He does a good job beating his man and getting to the middle of the lane. He misses the shot, but he is able to draw a second defender just enough to give Wendell Carter the lane for the putback.
This is the attention that Banchero brings. Much like shooting gravity, it is more about perception than reality sometimes. Banchero is not an efficient scorer yet, but every defense gives him attention like he is one. And that is ultimately what benefits him.
Banchero ended up leading the team after Dec. 7 in clutch field goals with 45. Banchero is where the Magic turned more often than not in close games. But surprisingly, perhaps, Fultz was right behind him with 44 and Wagner had 43.