‘This is the moment you play for’: Magic eagerly await Game 7 after defeating Cavaliers

ORLANDO, Fla. — Paolo Banchero scored 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists, Franz Wagner added 26 points and the Orlando Magic pulled out a late win to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday to force a decisive Game 7 in their first-round series.

The Magic controlled much of the first half of the contest, leading by as many as eight points. Despite being outscored 40-18 in the paint, they limited the Cavaliers to 1-of-14 shooting from 3-point range to carry a 53-49 lead into the intermission.

Cleveland then seemingly woke up.

Led by Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, the Cavaliers began the third quarter on a 17-4 run to go up by nine points. They held a 29-20 advantage in the period and the lead for the next 15 minutes of game time before the Magic staged their comeback attempt.

“Ain’t nobody held their head when they went on that run,” said Cole Anthony, who finished with nine points. “Basketball is a game of runs, so we just weathered the storm, chipped into the lead and when we were able to get it back to an even game, we just stayed composed and made some plays at the right time.”

Mitchell finished with 50 points, including 31 in the second half, to join LeBron James as the only two players in franchise history to reach that mark in the playoffs. Garland added 21 points and Max Strus had 10 points to lead the Cavaliers, who were without Jarrett Allen (rib).

After outscoring the Magic by nine points in the third quarter, the Cavaliers, with the exception of Mitchell, failed to get going offensively. Mitchell went 7-of-13 from the field and accounted for all of their 18 points in the fourth quarter, while the rest of the team went without a field goal.

“You look at the second half and third quarter, (it wasn’t) great defensively, and then I thought we were really locked in,” Wagner said. “I thought Mitchell hit a bunch of tough shots. Credit to him, but I thought we stuck with it and kept making it tough and then got stops when we needed to. That was pretty much the game. We got stops in the fourth and whenever you keep getting stops, you get a rhythm a little bit and some offense going.”

The fourth quarter saw five lead changes while the score was tied four times. The Magic wouldn’t take the lead for good until Banchero hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 39 seconds left to play. From there, the Magic answered each basket by the Cavaliers to save their season.

The Magic, despite getting outscored 66-38 in the paint, managed to pull out the win by limiting the Cavaliers’ 3-point attempts. Cleveland finished by converting only 25% (7-of-28) from beyond the arc, which was a point of emphasis by Orlando.

The effort was noted by coach Jamahl Mosley.

There was just a poise about them. They understood what the game plan was. They didn’t try to chase it. They knew what we were trying to accomplish down the stretch; guys made big plays. They trusted each other, trusted the pass. They understood who had it going and they didn’t shy away from it.

Jalen Suggs chipped in 22 points, six rebounds and four assists with six 3-pointers and Wendell Carter Jr. added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Magic. They also received strong contributions from Jonathan Isaac (nine rebounds) and Markelle Fultz (six points),

The two teams will now head to Cleveland for Game 7 on Sunday (1 p.m. EDT, ABC). They each played their last Game 7 against the Boston Celtics, who are awaiting the winner on Sunday. Cleveland last won a Game 7 in 2018, while it was 2009 for the Magic.

Orlando is eagerly awaiting that challenge.

“This is the moment you play for; why you do it,” Mosley said. “You do it for these moments. … You lay it all out there on the line, one opportunity. I think that these guys will all embrace that, knowing what they’re capable of doing. It isn’t going to be easy, nor do we want it to be easy.”

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire