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Magic ride recent starting core to 101-89 victory vs. Hornets

Throughout most of the season, one the Magic’s strongest lineups has been the opening-night starting five: Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr.

A new group, however, has emerged at the top for Orlando after the NBA All-Star break.

Suggs (four points), Gary Harris (nine), Wagner (eight), Banchero (22) and Carter (12) — making their third consecutive start Tuesday night against the Hornets at Spectrum Center — own the highest net rating among their most used lineups and won with ease, 101-89.

Orlando’s bench picked up the offensive slack by producing four double-figure scorers in Cole Anthony (14 points), Jonathan Isaac (11), Moe Wagner (11) and Anthony Black (10).

Before the league break, the starting group had only played 21 minutes combined in four games. Although it posted a plus-19.8 net rating, the sample size was smaller compared to Orlando’s more commonly used lineup that had garnered more than 200 minutes together.

Since then the lineup has been the most used, appearing in all four games with 79 total minutes.

That’s because of the absence of point guard Fultz, who missed the first two games after All-Star weekend because of left knee injury maintenance, had come off the bench the last four contests in his return.

When Fultz sat out 27 games in a row earlier with left knee tendinitis, Magic coach Jamahl Mosley leaned on Black in opening lineups.

Mosley has since gone with Harris to start because he spreads the floor (37.1% from 3-point range) and his veteran presence instead of the rookie. He made both of his attempts from distance Tuesday. Even Black shot well, going 3 for 4 from 3.

Fultz didn’t play Charlotte (15-47) because of knee maintenance on the first night of a back-to-back before Wednesday’s contest at Washington.

The guard has yet to play in both games of a back-to-back since he returned from his earlier absence but the thought process around which contest he misses has changed.

Before the break, Fultz had missed four games that fell on the second night of a back-to-back, but in two such instances after the break (including Tuesday) he sat the first game.

“Yes, that’s the definite key,” Mosley said pregame when asked if he wanted preserve Fultz and have some flexibility against the Wizards (9-52).

In total, Suggs, Harris, Wagner, Banchero and Carter had played 100 minutes in eight games entering Tuesday. Its overall net rating sat at plus-14.0, the best among all Magic lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together.

The group posted the best offensive rating (118.3) and the second-best defensive rating (104.3) behind only Harris, Joe Ingles, Isaac, Moe Wagner and Anthony (101.8).

It’s 60.8% effective field goal percentage — a field-goal percentage formula that adjusts for 3-pointers being worth more than made 2s — also is the highest among the most used lineups.

Not only are the Magic 8-2 in their last 10 games, but they’re 6-1 since the All-Star break when this lineup has been utilized more often.

It’s helped No. 6 Orlando (36-26) leapfrog the cutoff line for the NBA play-in tournament.