Magic aim to improve shooting and split West Coast trip with win at Utah

Throughout the first four games of his sophomore campaign, Magic forward Paolo Banchero has taken a step back as a scorer for Orlando compared to his rookie season.

A year ago, things were different for him. As the Magic started the season without guards Markelle Fultz, Gary Harris and Cole Anthony, Banchero was tasked with doing more on offense.

With the group of guards healthy to open this year, however, Banchero has yet to find his shot.

Orlando will need the league’s Rookie of the Year to improve his ability to score as the Magic (2-2) aim to capture a win in Salt Lake City against the Jazz (1-3) on Thursday (Bally Sports Florida, 9) to split the early four-game West Coast trip.

Shooting 37% from the field in four games this season, Banchero is averaging 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists. That represents a 5-percentage-point drop in FG accuracy, which has led to a far cry from his 22.8 points scored in his first four games as a rookie.

His free-throw percentage has also fallen from 81.1% (30 of 37) to 53.8% (14 of 26) to open his second year in the league.

Banchero knows he needs to improve.

“My main focus is trying to make shots,” he said after the Magic’s 118-102 loss to the Clippers (3-1) on Tuesday. “It’s been rough so far, but it’s going to come.

“I’ve got to trust it. My teammates got to trust it.”

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Banchero isn’t the only one struggling to hit shots early in the season. The team as a whole is shooting 45% from the field and an even worse 30.7% from 3-point range.

It’s not for lack of trying.

Orlando has averaged 18.5 3-pointers when the closest defender is six feet or more away from the shooter (meaning they’re wide open) but has only managed to sink six per night.

The Magic’s 32.5% success rate on “wide open” 3s is fifth-worst in the league.

“We’re getting the open looks but we’ve got to be able to knock them down,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Tuesday’s loss.

The amount of open looks, however, indicates that opposing teams aren’t worried about the Magic potentially hitting them. Unless Orlando begins to make those shots consistently, opponents will be able to crowd the paint defensively and actually want the Magic to shoot from range more.

“Our focus level of trying to attack and do the right things was there,” Mosley said in L.A. “The shots didn’t fall but our guys never hung their heads.”

And Mosley is right.

The Magic aren’t going to suddenly shift what they want to do on offense. Orlando still had success when attacking the basket against the Clippers. The Magic made 82.6% of their shots within 4 feet of the rim in Los Angeles (per and outscored the Western Conference contender 58-50 in the paint.

Orlando also attempted 33 free throws but made just 19.

It’s also worth mentioning that these numbers are from a small sample size of just four games but Orlando will want to make sure they don’t become season-long trends.

“We just have to continue to focus, stay the course and not let this change the way in which we’re doing things,” Mosley said. “We’re going to continue to work, defend at a high level and see where we can improve against Utah.”

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Banchero stressed the importance of Orlando, which won on Friday in Portland, going 2-2 on the first trip of the year before hosting the Lakers this weekend.

“Finishing the road trip .500 would be big as a team and it would be a big boost going back home,” he said.

Email Jason Beede at or follow him on X, also known as Twitter, at @therealBeede.