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Pistons 113, Magic 109: Paolo Banchero shines but Magic fall in season opener

The No. 1 pick scored 27 points in his debut but the Magic surrendered an early 15-point lead

Orlando Magic v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Orlando Magic and their fans had been waiting a long, long time for this night. Not months, but years.

Years of losing, rebuilding and tanking all led to this moment, where the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft took the court in an Orlando Magic uniform. Paolo Banchero, a 19-year-old the Magic hope develops into their newest franchise player, showed that he could be just that by scoring 27 points in Orlando’s 113-109 loss to the host Detroit Pistons.

He took and made his first shot on the first possession of the game, showing some footwork in the paint and hitting a baby hook for the first points of his career.

Banchero went on to score six of the first eight Orlando points. He later displayed his ability to get to the free throw line, a skill this Magic team sorely needs, as he spun baseline and drew the whistle, hitting one of two from the stripe. Bancheo picked up his second foul with 4:43 left in the first on a reach-in at the perimeter while the Magic were playing a 3-2 zone, but Jamahl Mosley allowed him to play through it.

The Magic made eight of their first nine shots in the game during a 19-0 run to open a 21-6 lead, even while playing shorthanded in the backcourt. Cole Anthony was a late scratch due to illness, giving the start to Jalen Suggs, who struggled early but more than made up for it in the third quarter.

The Magic shot 57.9 percent in the first (11-for-19), scoring 16 points in the paint but going just 2 of 8 from three, to take a 28-17 lead after the opening quarter. The Pistons shot 31.8 percent, missing all eight of their three-point attempts.

Fellow rookie Caleb Houstan had entered earlier as the first off the bench for the Magic, checking in for Franz Wagner with 6:47 left in the quarter. Next up was Bol Bol and soon after was Mo Bamba, as the two formed a massive lineup with Wendell Carter Jr., Wagner and Houstan. Fun to watch, and a defensive and rebounding nightmare for the opposition, but clear and fully-expected limitations offensively.

Bol aggressively attacked the rim early in the second quarter, hitting a floater and then throwing down a put-back dunk (then missing a finger roll after an acrobatic spin into the lane) to give the Magic a 34-22 lead.

But the Magic’s lack of a true point guard began to show as the offense went stagnant and turnovers piled up. The Pistons took advantage, going on a 22-4 run that gave them a 52-45 lead. Terrence Ross answered by hitting a three plus the foul (missed the free throw), and Wagner closed the quarter by hitting a step-back three with 1.1 seconds left to pull the Magic within 57-55 heading into the half.

Suggs then had the best shooting quarter of his young career in the third as he went shot for shot with Bojan Bogdanovic. After the Pistons opened a 10-point lead on a three by Cade Cunningham, Suggs hit threes on three consecutive Magic possessions to help keep them in the game.

He later hit a fourth to pull Orlando within 89-81, as he finished the quarter with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-5 from deep.

In the fourth quarter, Banchero delivered the first poster of his career with an emphatic one-handed dunk plus the foul, then followed with a floater in transition to make it a two-point game....

Suggs fouled out with 3:47 left, putting R.J. Hampton in control down the stretch. He delivered a pretty bounce pass in transition to Wagner, who threw down the dunk to make it 106-101. Hampton then stole the ball and found Banchero for the bucket to make it a one-possession game.

The Magic pulled within one after a pretty up-and-under layup by Wagner and a Euro-Step lay-in by Banchero that made it 108-107 with 34.6 seconds left. But Cunningham followed with a drive-and-kick to Isaiah Stewart, who hit a corner three for a 111-107 lead with 11.6 seconds left.

Ross then missed a three, but Banchero grabbed the offensive rebound off a high carom and was fouled on the put-back attempt, hitting both free throws to make it a two-point game with 5.5 seconds left. Bogdanovic then hit a pair of free throws with 4.7 seconds left to seal the win for the Pistons.

Banchero finished 11 of 18 from the field, with all his shot attempts coming from inside the arc. The 27 points scored by Banchero was the most by a No. 1 pick in their NBA debut since LeBron James scored 25 points in 2003. It was also the most points scored by a Magic rookie in a season opener, topping the 13 scored by Mo Bamba in 2017.

Banchero added nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks — joining LeBron and Grant Hill as the only players over the last 30 years with at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in their NBA debut.

Suggs had 21 points and three assists. Wagner had 20 points, five assists and four rebounds. Carter Jr. had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Ross had 13 points. Bol added 10 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. Bamba (0-for-5, 0-for-4 from three), Houstan (0-for-3, 0-for-2 from three, 0-for-2 FT) and Chuma Okeke (0-for-3, 0-for-1 from three, 2-for-2 FT) went without a field goal.

Fun game, disappointing outcome. Plenty of positives, plenty to work on.

The Magic are back in action on Friday when they head to Atlanta to take on the Hawks.