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Magic improve in 3-point percentage during win at Detroit

Although the Magic entered Saturday’s road game at Detroit with the fourth-worst 3-point percentage (35.1%) in the NBA, it’s an area Jamahl Mosley‘s squad has improved on recently.

Against the Pistons, Orlando shot 12 of 24 from 3-point distance and prevailed thanks to a three-point play from Paolo Banchero with 0.8 seconds left for a 112-109 victory over the NBA-worst Pistons on Saturday night.

Orlando’s All-Star — who finished with 15 points — made a jumper and a free throw after missing two free throws with 17.9 seconds left, allowing Detroit to stay within two points.

During the previous five games, Orlando (32-25) was shooting 43.1% from beyond the arc, which ranks second-best league-wide.

Despite the small sample size, the jump in accuracy is a positive sign for a team that’s struggled from distance throughout most of the season.

Opposing teams have often wanted the Magic to shoot wide-open 3s because they know Orlando more than likely won’t make them. That has allowed opponents to pack the paint and clog up driving lanes, which slows down the Magic’s half-court offense.

Orlando is at its best when it turns defense into offense by forcing deflections and steals that lead to transition scoring — its 18.9 points off turnovers rank second-best in the NBA, behind only Oklahoma City.

Adding accurate 3-point shooting to the mix only helps the Magic spread the floor and force defenses to respect their ability to shoot.

The leader of the pack has been third-year guard Jalen Suggs.

Known for his elite defense and scrappy style of basketball, Suggs has taken a jump in 3-point accuracy each year he’s been in Orlando, shooting 21.4% in 2022, 32.7% in 2023 and 38.2% so far this season.

“Twenty-one percent was lonely,” Suggs recently said after practice. “A lot of credit to all [the coaches]. They put in the work with me. They put in the hours in the gym and helped me get right on that side.

“It just opens the rest of the floor up, honestly. It’s helped me slow down a bit in my pace and how I’m playing.”

He started in Orlando’s backcourt alongside Gary Harris against the Pistons on Saturday. Point guard Markelle Fultz (left knee injury maintenance) missed his third straight game while forwards Banchero and Franz Wagner plus center Wendell Carter Jr. opened with Suggs and Harris.

The addition of veteran Joe Ingles has also helped the Magic shoot better from 3-point range. His 42.5% marks a team-high while Carter’s 41.2% is second.

Suggs’ 38.2% from distance is third best for Orlando.

“His ability to knock shots down and know that teams have to close out on him a certain way allows him to read the game differently,” Mosley said. “He’s done a great job of that, knowing when to push the pace in transition vs. when to settle down and get the ball moving from side-to-side.

“He’s done a tremendous job of that.”

After battling Detroit (8-48), the Magic will wrap up their 3-game trip Sunday against the Hawks (24-32) in the second game of a back-to-back.

Atlanta will be without All-Star guard Trae Young, who was ruled out Saturday night due to a left finger injury.

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