Just 21, Magic star Paolo Banchero scores 39 in magnificent performance against Cavs in Game 5 loss

CLEVELAND (AP) — One number stood out above all the others Paolo Banchero put up in just his fifth NBA playoff game: 21.

The second-year forward scored 39 points and nearly pushed Orlando past Cleveland in Game 5 on Tuesday night before the Cavaliers held on for 104-103 win to take a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference series.

Despite the loss, Banchero, who won't turn 22 until November, showed why he's one of the league's up-and-coming stars and why the Magic could be a major problem for years to come.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft, Banchero went 14 of 24 from the field, made four 3-pointers and added eight rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes.

For much of the second half, Banchero dropped contested jumpers and fadeaways as he singlehandedly kept the Magic close. The Cavs had no answer for the 6-foot-10, 250-pounder who plays with a maturity way beyond his years.

“A lot of people forget he’s 21, that part is really impressive," said 36-year-old Magic forward Joe Ingles. "We’ve been impressed all year with the attention he gets defensively and the double-teams thrown at him.”

Banchero was physically and emotionally spent afterward. He poured everything he had into his performance.

“I just got lost in the game and really wanted to win because I knew how big it would have been,” said Banchero, who scored a then-career-high 42 against the Cavs in December. "It was a great environment, a lot of fun. I just wanted to be aggressive, and I think I got a little fatigued at the end.”

The Magic shot better than in Games 1 and 2 in Cleveland, but still came up just short and now must win Game 6 on Friday at home to stay alive. If they can, it will be back to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse with even more on the line.

“We were right there today and if we want to move on, we know we have to win here — but first we’ve got to win Friday,” Banchero said. “I know this, we’re not ready to go home (for good)."'