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Magic react to dominating win over Cavaliers in Game 3 of playoffs

ORLANDO, Fla. — After struggling to make shots in their first two games against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Orlando Magic knew things would eventually turn in their favor.

It finally happened on Thursday.

Playing behind their home crowd in the playoffs for the first time since 2019, the Magic shook off a slow start and dominated the Cavaliers to take Game 3 and bring their first-round series to 2-1 with a 121-83 victory at the Kia Center.

Paolo Banchero produced a game-high 31 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, Jalen Suggs scored 24 points and Franz Wagner added 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds to lead the Magic to their first home playoff victory since April 26, 2011.

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley knew Banchero was due for a big game.

“We felt it from the beginning of the game, honestly,” Mosley said. “The moment he stepped into his first shot, it didn’t go in; there was no hesitation in his next one. I think that’s a sign of a young man who is continuing to get better and continuing to grow into who he is becoming. He does not let a make or miss rattle what he is doing.”

The Cavaliers didn’t trail against the Magic in the first two games after picking up consecutive wire-to-wire wins in the playoffs for the first time since May 2017. They collectively held the Magic to 36.2% shooting from the field, including 25.7% from 3-point range, in those two games.

Orlando continued its cold streak on Thursday, missing 10 out of its first 11 shots to fall into an early seven-point hole in the first quarter. The group responded and ended the period on a 28-11 run to take a 10-point lead into the second quarter.

From there, the Magic erased any doubt about their shooting woes by  connecting on 51.1% of their attempts from the field, including 35.1% from beyond the arc. They led by 43 points in the second half before the Cavaliers cut the margin of victory to 38 points, the third-largest in Magic playoff history.

“I just knew I was just going to have to stay in attack mode,” Banchero said. “Obviously, the difference being down 2-1 and 3-0 is ginormous, so I knew that this game was kind of a do-or-die game, and I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. I wanted to just go out there and hoop and be aggressive from the start.”

Banchero became the first Magic player to score at least 30 points in the playoffs since Nikola Vucevic on Aug. 24, 2020. He became the first player in franchise history to record at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in fewer than 30 minutes (29 minutes, 19 seconds).

The first-time All-Star and reigning Rookie of the Year registered his first career playoff double-double on Thursday. He also became the second-youngest player in history to begin his playoff career with three straight 20-point performances (21 years, 165 days).

“The shot-making — that was pretty special,” Wagner said of Banchero. “Some extremely tough shots, some against two defenders. It makes the game pretty easy for the rest of us.”

The Magic, who were outrebounded by 21 over the first two games, held a 51-32 advantage on the glass in Game 3. They hauled 14 rebounds on the offensive end — compared to five for the Cavaliers — and outscored them 22-9 in second-chance points.

Jarrett Allen, who had a playoff-career-high 20 rebounds in Game 2, led the Cavaliers with 15 points, eight rebounds and one block. Caris LeVert scored 15 points off the bench and Donovan Mitchell added 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

The Magic didn’t want to get outrebounded again.

“We knew that was kind of the killer in the first two games,” Banchero said. “We thought we were playing pretty good defense but we’ve been giving up way too many rebounds and getting dominated on the glass. We really wanted to put an emphasis on neutralizing their bigs and keeping them off the boards.”

Orlando will look to keep its momentum heading into Game 4 on Saturday (1 p.m. EDT, TNT). The group understands it can’t get too high off of its win, just like it didn’t get down too low after dropping the first two games of the series.

It appears they will be ready for the challenge.

“(We just have to) stick with it and understand that it is a long game and an even longer series,” Wagner said. “We did our job tonight and we gotta do the same on Saturday and just keep chipping away.”

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire