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Anthony, Suggs lead Magic in victory over Hornets

After the Magic lost to the Pacers at home by 14 points on March 10, Orlando addressed the elephant in the room.

Jamahl Mosley‘s squad had a third-quarter problem.

Outscored by 10 points in the third quarter in a road loss at New York, the Magic were outscored by 18 in the third against Indiana the next game.

The two 12-minute stretches essentially put both results out of reach for Orlando (41-28).

“That’s on the first unit,” Franz Wagner recently said. “We’ve got to make sure we come out of the half with the right mindset, right attitude and right aggression as well.

“The last couple of games, we’ve been doing that.”

And Wagner is right. Entering Tuesday’s home contest against the Charlotte Hornets (17-52), Orlando posted a plus-36.8 net rating in the third quarter of the last three games, which was second-best in the NBA.

In three games prior (March 6-10), the Magic’s third-quarter net rating sat 24th at minus-21.4.

Since dropping to Indiana, Orlando has won four in a row and the team clinched a non-losing season Tuesday with their 41st win by defeating the Hornets 112-92 on Tuesday. The victory also secured, at worst, a spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament, something the Magic just missed out on last year.

Before the All-Star break, the Magic’s third-quarter net rating sat at minus-1.4, which was 20th league-wide.

Since the break, that mark has increased to plus-5.1, which is 10 spots better league-wide.

A large reason for the improvement has been the play of first-time All-Star Paolo Banchero, who had 13 points. Jalen Suggs contributed 16 points in the win while guard Cole Anthony led the team with 21 off the bench.

Before the league break, Banchero averaged 6.2 points on 40.9% shooting in 55 games.

In the 11 games since then, the Magic forward averaged 8.3 points on 60.0% shooting. His points per quarter in the third frame rose up the league from 34th to 9th.

Banchero explained what changes for him in third quarters after halftime.

“The game opens up for me, and a lot of times at the start of the games, teams are super alert and trying to keep me from getting to my spots.”

How Banchero and the Magic perform out of the break could play a role in where the team finishes the regular season.

Orlando entered Tuesday’s contest vs. Charlotte fifth in the East, half a game behind the fourth-seeded Knicks (41-27) and two full games in front of the sixth-seeded 76ers (38-30).

Jason Beede can be reached at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com