Paolo Banchero scores 27 points, Magic overcome Mitchell’s 50 to beat Cavs 103-96 and force Game 7

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Paolo Banchero scored 10 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Orlando Magic overcome Donovan Mitchell’s 50 points and hold off the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-96 on Friday night to force a decisive Game 7 in their first-round NBA playoff series.

Three nights after scoring 39 points on 14-of-24 shooting in a one-point road loss that left the Magic on the brink of elimination, the 21-year-old Banchero put his team on his back and carried them to their biggest win in years.

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Franz Wagner had 26 points and Jalen Suggs made six 3-pointers and finished with 22 for the Magic, who pulled away in the closing minutes, with Banchero hitting a 3-pointer that put Orlando ahead for good at 92-89.

Mitchell was magnificent for Cleveland, scoring all of his team’s 18 points in the fourth quarter. Darius Garland finished with 21, but ultimately the Cavs were unable to overcome poor 3-point shooting (7 of 28).

Game 7 is Sunday in Cleveland, where the Cavs won Games 1, 2 and 5 and clearly play better than on the road, where they’ve dropped seven straight playoff games dating to a LeBron James-led Game 7 victory at Boston in the 2018 Eastern Conference finals.

The Cavs haven’t won a postseason series since then. The Magic, in the playoffs for the first time since 2020, are seeking their first series win in 14 years.

Orlando took Games 3 and 4 by a combined 61 points, yet came out Friday night with a slightly different look, inserting forward Jonathan Isaac into the starting lineup and shifting Wagner from forward to guard to put four 6-foot-10 players on the floor at the same time.

With center Jarrett Allen out for the second consecutive game because of a bruised rib, the Cavs slid forward Evan Mobley to center and started Marcus Morris Sr. after the 34-year-old came off the bench to score 12 points and elevate Cleveland’s level of physicality.

The Cavs trailed 53-49 at the half and were fortunate the deficit wasn’t larger, considering they had misfired on 13 of 14 3-point attempts.

With an aggressive Mitchell and Garland seemingly driving to the basket at will, Cleveland converted 22 of 32 shots inside the arc and wound up shooting 50% overall (23 of 46) before the break to stay close.

They finally heated up from long range in the third quarter, with Mitchell and Max Strus making 3-pointers during a 17-4 surge to begin the period. The trailed by as many as nine before closing within 78-73 leading into the fourth quarter.

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