Advertisement

Magic adjust to playing without Paolo Banchero, dominate Nets

ORLANDO, Fla. — After being available for the first 57 games of the season, Magic forward Paolo Banchero missed his second consecutive contest Tuesday against the Nets at Kia Center.

Unlike the 17-point loss at Atlanta two days ago, Orlando got it right with a 108-82 rout of the Nets.

Listed as questionable entering the day, Banchero was a game-time decision and went through a pregame workout before being ruled out.

In his place, second-year pro Caleb Houstan started for Orlando alongside Jalen Suggs, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. vs. Brooklyn (22-36) so the Magic could spread the floor better.

Sunday, Goga Bitadze started in place of Banchero in a two-big lineup with Carter.

Inserting Houstan (nine points) paid off as he made 3 of 4 from 3-point range to go with six rebounds and two steals.

“We’ve always talked about doing it by committee,” coach Jamahl Mosley said before tipoff. “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 3s.

“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.”

Facing the Magic on the second night of a back-to-back, the Nets were without starters Ben Simmons (left lower back injury maintenance) and Cam Thomas (right ankle sprain).

When Banchero didn’t play Sunday, it meant extra attention given to Wagner, who’s second on the Magic in scoring (20.8).

Against the Hawks, Wagner led the Magic with 19 points but picked up his fourth late in the third quarter. After he exited, Atlanta went on a 16-1 run. His availability is even more important when Banchero can’t play.

“Franz understands exactly when he’s going to see more attention,” Mosley said. “He’s seen double teams this year whether Paolo [was] on the floor or not. He’s seen double teams on the post, double teams in the pick-and-roll. Because he has such a high basketball IQ, he’s always willing and wanting to make the right play. That’s what’s expected out of him.

“Be more of who he is and the other guys continue to create when they receive the ball to make plays for one another. That’s who this team has always been.”

Wagner (21 points) led five Magic scorers in double figures on 8-for-11 shooting in just 28 minutes. Moe Wagner (16), Markelle Fultz (12) and Cole Anthony (12) anchored the bench. Four other players scored eight or nine points, including Suggs, Harris and Anthony Black.

Dennis Schroder (15) was his team’s top scorer as the Nets shot less than 40% from the field.

The Magic (33-26) also were without forward Jonathan Isaac, who suffered a left knee strain at Atlanta.

Isaac, who played in just 11 games last season after two-plus years off the court with leg injuries, was “very relieved” that he avoided a major injury when he fell awkwardly in the first quarter Sunday.

Isaac said he was able to run and jump around at shootaround Tuesday morning and that his left knee feels a little sore.

“I don’t foresee this being a multiple-game missed injury,” he said.

Although he wasn’t available against Brooklyn, “the focus is Thursday most likely and we’ll just go from there,” Isaac added.

Mosley called it a testament to the work he’s put with Orlando’s training staff throughout his recovery.

“It’s just tremendous the job that they do,” the Magic coach said. “They’re trying to stay on top of everything. They do a tremendous job of getting these guys right and back to get to the floor.”

The Magic host the Jazz on Thursday to continue their three-game home stand (Bally Sports Florida, 7).