Paolo Banchero lifted Orlando Magic on night he needed his teammates

Paolo Banchero scored the game-winning basket to defeat the Detroit Pistons. Getting there was a struggle, but his team lifted him up for his star-making moment on a night when he needed it.
Paolo Banchero was feeling ill and struggling throughout the game. His Orlando Magic teammates lifted him to a heroic moment.
Paolo Banchero was feeling ill and struggling throughout the game. His Orlando Magic teammates lifted him to a heroic moment. / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

64. Final. 112. 38. Magic Pistons Final 02.24.24. 109

Paolo Banchero was emotional in his postgame interview with Kendra Douglas of Bally Sports Florida. He was fighting back tears and dropped a few bad words as he could not hold back the emotion from his latest feat.

The highlights will show what Banchero did. It will be one of the greatest highlights of his career.

Paolo Banchero drew a switch to isolate Jalen Duren on the left side of the floor, a favorable matchup for him.

He jumpstopped into his spot and Duren crowded him. Banchero drew the contact and flung the ball at the rim. It went in, he got the foul and the Magic got a three-point lead with 0.8 seconds left.

More than enough to hang on for a 112-109 victory and escape Little Caesars Arena with the team's third straight win. At the end of the season, all those wins will count the same.

After a night full of frustration when Banchero was clearly very sick and moving sluggishly, he was emotional on the broadcast because he knew he needed help to create this huge moment. What got to him was the trust his teammates put into him to finish that game.

Banchero's team and teammates carried him to the finish line so he could carry them over it and to the win. Banchero was overcome with the trust and love of his teammates and that gave him the confidence to finish once again.

"That's what kind of got me emotional," Banchero said after Saturday's win. "I've been feeling terrible really the last couple of days. Just battling being sick. Just the whole game, I was out of it and mad at myself because I haven't felt like myself the last two games because of my body and everything.

"For my teammates and coaches to have the confidence in me and they kept reassuring me and telling me that I was going to be good and finish the game strong and forget everything that was going on. I give all the credit to them for keeping me in it. There were a couple of moments in the game I could have easily drifted off and take myself out of the game and they did not let me do that."

Banchero struggled again in this game. He scored 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting and made only five of his nine free throw attempts. Banchero seemed to be getting to his spots on the floor and was just unable to hit his shot.

Where he was noticeably off was on defense. Banchero was always a step late rotating over and seemed a bit disengaged on that end. His main defensive assignment, Simone Fontecchio, had 17 points. The Pistons were able to attack Banchero on that end.

Coming off a poor game Thursday against the Cleveland Cavaliers where Banchero scored 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting, including missing his first six shots, this is not the All-Star level the Magic are used to from Banchero.

Banchero needed everyone to help him get through this. He probably did not think he would get the call to win the game, especially after missing two free throws to ice the game with less than 30 seconds to play. Those misses cleared the way for Cade Cunningham to tie the game.

The Magic went back to Banchero for redemption. They were always going to go back to him. And that is meaningful to him as this team comes together for their first Playoff push.

On a night when Banchero needed his team to lift him and carry him to the end. They still trusted him to lift them in the end. They still believed Banchero would deliver as he always does. All they had to do was give him that nudge.

"That's what good players do," Suggs said after Saturday's game. "He's a great player. All-Star for a reason. He deserves all the love and accolades that come his way. To come here when some guys have sat post-All-Star, he's continued to play and continued to be with us. Of course, we're going to have full faith and full trust in him whenever the game is on the line. Time and time again, he continues to prove us right."

Getting there was the challenge. And with Banchero dragging, the game required everyone to step up in their own way. Like Thursday's game against the Cavaliers, the Magic's bench needed to make an impact.

Orlando had eight players in double figures. Banchero ended up leading the team in scoring with 15. But everyone stepped up to play their role and carry the team through some part of the game.

It could have been Jalen Suggs hitting six of seven shots for 14 points. It could have been Cole Anthony's 13 points and seven assists as he continues to come out of his shooting slump. It could have been Goga Bitadze getting a surprise run in the first quarter for three blocks. Or Moe Wagner again piling on points with 14 points and seven rebounds, including six offensive rebounds.

Everyone stepped up once again. The game called for it and everyone answered.

But the game also called for Banchero's heroics. It called for his unique ability to hit a tough shot and deliver for his team. That is not an easy thing to ask especially with how Banchero was moving and playing

The Magic certainly hoped that they would be able to ease their way to a win against the eight-win Pistons on the first night of a back-to-back. They had their chances to blow the game open. But turnovers (13 of them for 16 points) kept popping up at the worst times. They did not have that one offensive play they could turn to, especially with Banchero struggling to get through the game.

The Pistons, to their credit, never quit on the game. They forced the Magic to fight for this one. And Orlando almost did not have enough to get to the finish line.

"It says a lot about this group," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Saturday's game. "There were ups and downs throughout this game. The flow of the game was not pretty at all. Our guys did a good job staying resilient. But for Paolo to come out, regardless of the game he was having, and to have the confidence and his teammates to have the confidence in him to take that last shot says a lot about him and says a lot about this group."

This is part of the mission Mosley has laid out for his team. He wants the team to be adaptable to whatever defenses give them and to have to find ways to win.

It is not an easy thing to do. And this is where teams know they need their stars most. Even on off nights.

Finding that trust in Banchero even after he played so poorly says a lot about their belief in his talent and what he delivers time and time again for the team.

For the team, that trust is inherent. It is unquestioned. They knew he was going to step up and make the plays. He has delivered every other time.

That is the trust the Magic have built all season long. That is the faith they have built all season long.

They knew they would need Banchero at the end and they believed he would deliver. Why wouldn't he? He always has.

Next. Playoff x-Factors 02.24.24. 3 X-Factors for Orlando Magic's playoff chase. dark

What Banchero needed was his team to get him there on this night. That is what makes this team special. Everyone is helping each other achieve these bigger goals.