Paolo Banchero, Magic look to regain shooting touch vs. Nets

By Thomson Reuters Mar 12, 2024 | 6:26 PM

The Orlando Magic entered last weekend’s test against fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders on a high note, having won five straight and eight of nine to get them well over the .500 mark.

After wilting in double-digit losses to the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers — falling by a combined 38 points — the Magic attempt to get back on track Wednesday night when they host the Brooklyn Nets.

Orlando shot 52.7 percent in its 108-81 home win over Brooklyn on Feb. 27 to start its second-longest winning streak of the season. After also beating the Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards, the Magic were flat in a 98-74 defeat at New York on Friday and fell apart in the second half of a 111-97 home loss Sunday to the Indiana Pacers.

Against Indiana, Orlando was outscored 64-47 after halftime and shot 33.3 percent in the final 24 minutes. Paolo Banchero led the Magic with 19 points but shot 15 of 40 in the two losses, Cole Anthony was 5 of 18 from the field in the two losses and Franz Wagner was a combined 11 of 34 over the weekend.

“We laid an egg that second half,” Anthony said after Orlando followed up shooting a season-low 34.2 percent in New York by finishing at 37.5 percent Sunday. “I thought we had a pretty solid first quarter, even halfway through the second quarter. But then we started getting stagnant.

“We started turning into hero ball. It’s coming from a good place. I don’t think anyone will forget you, it’s more I’m trying to make something happen and help the team. We have to get that flow back on the offensive side.”

Brooklyn is halfway through a six-game road trip and 4-3 since shooting 39.2 percent in the last visit to Orlando.

Cam Thomas, who did not play in the previous meeting due to an ankle injury that cost him six games, helped the Nets rebound from disastrous results in Detroit and Charlotte to start the trip.

Thomas scored 29 points as the Nets dominated the second half of their 120-101 win at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night. Thomas scored 20 after halftime and hit five of Brooklyn’s 13 second-half 3-pointers as it outscored Cleveland 68-50 in the final 24 minutes.

Brooklyn’s big second half occurred 24 hours after interim coach Kevin Ollie was critical of the effort in a 110-99 loss at Charlotte.

“Just our energy and effort, communication,” Thomas said when asked about what fueled the run. “I was a big catalyst in the talking, like just talking up more, talking to the guys, getting them hyped up, telling them what we need to do to get a win, because you know it’s been a while.

“We’re in the stage of the season where we have to get wins, so everybody has to do something they’re not used to, and for me it’s just being communicative.”

Besides another productive night from Thomas, the Nets are hoping to see another solid showing from Mikal Bridges. Bridges added 25 in Cleveland after following up a 38-point performance March 2 against Atlanta by shooting 32.7 percent (18 of 55) in his previous four games.

–Field Level Media