Playing by committee is the key to success in a Orlando Magic team without Paolo Banchero

The Orlando Magic both dished and received blowouts in two games without Paolo Banchero. The team needs to stay committed to their winning-by-committee approach -- with or without their star player -- as they push toward the postseason.
Everyone on the Orlando Magic has had to step up to help fill the gap lost by Paolo Banchero's absence. Even in the short-term, it is proof of their by-committee approach.
Everyone on the Orlando Magic has had to step up to help fill the gap lost by Paolo Banchero's absence. Even in the short-term, it is proof of their by-committee approach. / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

A Paolo Banchero-less starting lineup is the new normal - at least for a few games.

With an illness that has held him out for the past two games (Sunday's loss at Atlanta and Tuesday's home win over the Brooklyn Nets), the Orlando Magic have needed to adjust to playing without their All-Star and leading scorer.

Rolling into Atlanta with a squad playing without its leader for the first time since his rookie year, it looked like just that -- a team without its top dog.

Even with a lead going into the locker room and a Hawks team playing without Trae Young, it was not enough for Orlando. An 18-1 run at the end of the third quarter - where Franz Wagner and company missed their final eight shots of the period - opened the floodgates on the scoreboard.

Wagner scored 12 points in the first quarter of that game to pace the Magic early. He scored only seven points the rest of the game on 3-for-10 shooting. Orlando struggled to fill in. Much of the 18-1 run came with Wagner on the bench after he picked up his fourth foul.

The team, on a tough back-to-back and the end of a three-game road trip in four days, failed to fill in the gaps. The team floundered.

The story was different Tuesday at home against Brooklyn. Banchero was again out after going through a workout to try to play earlier in the day. The team would need everyone to help.

"We’ve always talked about doing it by committee,” coach Jamahl Mosley said before Tuesday's game. “Guys understand what that looks like. That’s continued ball movement, being able to put pressure on the rim, stepping into your shot with confidence offensively, knocking down threes, still attacking the rim the same way. But defensively, getting there early, being able to help, finish possessions off with the rebound. And every given night, take care of the basketball and when you're open, knock them down."

Orlando did just that Tuesday. A key bounceback to get back in the win column amid a top-six playoff spot push was exactly what this team needed -- with or without their 21-year-old cornerstone. Five players were in double figures -- including a 37-point barrage from the Wagner brothers (21 for Franz, 16 off the bench for Moe).

The team had 20 assists on 39 field goals. They made 52.7 percent of their shots and were 21 for 25 from the foul line (a big imporvement after an 8-for-18 showing in Atlanta). They had 12 turnovers through three quarters, but gave up only five points off those turnovers.

Everything worked for the Magic.

Defensively, Orlando was also missing Jonathan Issac -- he suffered a left knee strain in the first quarter against Atlanta, avoiding serious injury -- but it did not matter down the stretch. The defense without its Minister held Brooklyn to a paltry 39.2 percent from the field. Playing without Cam Thomas, a 20-point-per-game player this season, Mikal Bridges was forced into his lowest-scoring night of the year - a four-point, 2-for-14 performance.

The Magic forced 22 turnovers and scored 29 points off those missteps, punishing the Nets for every mistake. They tallied 14 steals on top of that. Brooklyn, a team that torched Orlando from beyond the arc in the first two meetings between the teams, made only 8 of 31 (25.8 percent) of its threes.

A Magic team without Banchero did exactly what they know best -- play stifling defense across the board and let the shots fall. This has continued to be ever-critical as the season progresses.

The team still ranks in the bottom five in scoring (26th with 111.4 points per game and 23rd in offensive rating at 113.0 points per 100 possessions) while carrying a top-six team defense at 110.3 points allowed per game and top five in defensive rating at 111.7 points allowed per 100 possessions.

When a player is out, a team has to be more about its principles and identity to be successful. That was the lesson of Tuesday's win.

Franz Wagner being the number one option on offense has resulted in more double teams and a larger stress on his efficiency from the field. It is tough to become a shot creator and focal point after being on the positive end of a second option role. Wagner struggled with that against Atlanta and switched his game plan against Brooklyn.

Taking only 11 shots (compared to 16 versus the Hawks), Wagner dished out a team-high five assists, letting his playmaking and vision -- arguably the best of those traits on the team -- shine and operate in a true point-forward role.

“I thought he was great. I thought he just continued to make the right play,” Jamahl Mosley said after Tuesday's win. "Dell was doing an unbelievable job finding him and hitting screens for him, sealing guys in, allowing Franz to get to the basket. Guys were looking for him. Just his level of confidence, knowing what he's capable of doing and the guys trusting knowing what he can do."

Do not get it wrong, Wagner was still aggressive, making 8 of 11 shots. He could have scored more if the magic needed him in the game any longer -- he did not play in the fourth quarter. But even a big game from Wagner was about how the team rallied and helped him find the path to success.

Moving forward, Orlando needs to continue leaning on its "win by committee" approach, with or without Banchero. It works regardless of his status in the lineup. Despite a 4-8 record with Banchero out of the lineup, their team identity is built to exist without him and only gets better with him playing.

The Magic want to make sure everyone is involved. They want to take what the defense gives them and be able to take advantage of the holes every defense is going to have.

Banchero is still the guy to take the final shot and deliver a key basket late (see the game-winner against the Detroit Pistons). But the team approach and allowing the ball to find the best scoring opportunity has been their way this season and should remain that way.

It is what led them to a nine-game winning streak at the beginning of the season. It has been their saving grace in games where Banchero and Wagner struggle, like against Detroit on Saturday where six other players notched double figures.

Guiding rookie Anthony Black to a 23-point performance back in December or a big double-double from Wendell Carter (similar to his 18-point, 12-rebound performance en route to an upset win over the Minnesota Timberwolves) are where Orlando shines.

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A postseason berth will see them run up against more talented teams. But a team approach will keep them in them.