It took until the second week of the 2022-23 NBA season, but the Orlando Magic have officially won a game.
And if they win again in Dallas to close out the weekend, that’s ‘called a winning streak’. Sorry, couldn’t resist the Major League reference.
After playing four of their first five games on the road, the Magic returned home Friday night in front of a raucous Amway Center gathering to defeat their division-rival Charlotte Hornets 113-93.
Orlando played inspired and energized basketball from the opening tip, despite being down six rotation players (four guards) due to various injuries.
After losing second-year guard Jalen Suggs to a sprained ankle last week, the organization officially announced yesterday that starting point guard Cole Anthony would be sidelined indefinitely due to an oblique injury he suffered earlier this week. The Magic have already been playing without guards Markelle Fultz and Gary Harris, who both suffered injuries during the offseason and missed all of training camp.
Despite all of that, Orlando held as much as a 32-point advantage over Charlotte, who are now coached by former Magic head coach Steve Clifford.
Rookie forward Paolo Banchero led the way for the Magic with 21 points (8-14 FGA’s, 2-4 3PTA’s), 12 rebounds, and 7 assists in just 27 minutes. Banchero joined Elvin Hayes and Oscar Robertson as the only three players taken first overall in the NBA Draft to score 20 or more points in each of their first six career games. Only Wilt Chamberlain (56) and Hayes (10) have now scored 20+ in more consecutive games to begin their careers than Orlando’s top rookie phenom.
“It felt really good just getting over the hump,” Banchero told reporters after the game. “This is only our second home game, we’ve been on the road a lot. We’ve had some tough games, fighting until the end. Just wasn’t able to get over the hump, so to finally win in that fashion (playing really well on both ends), it just felt good for sure.”
The Magic dominated the Hornets in the second quarter, outscoring their division-foes 29-11 in the period. Orlando closed the first half on a 13-0 run, effectively creating enough of a cushion to cruise the rest of the way.
Reserve center Mo Bamba, who had struggled through the first five games of the season, broke out in a big way Friday night with 19 points (8-12 FGA’s), 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 17 minutes off the bench.
In his first start with the Magic, big man Bol Bol scored 11 points and grabbed 7 rebounds (27 minutes).
The Hornets, who scored 131 points in their last outing against the New York Knicks, struggled mightily offensively Friday night, shooting a frigid 38.4 percent from the field (28.9 percent from beyond the arc).
“I was extremely pleased with our guys’ effort,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters after the game. “They stuck to the game-plan, understood how they attacked the paint (to spray out) and knock down three’s. And they did a nice job getting out to those shooters.”
Charlotte was playing without All-Star guard LaMelo Ball, who has missed all of the Hornets’ games this season after spraining his ankle in the preseason. Starting veteran guard Terry Rozier also missed the contest Friday (ankle).
Despite missing Anthony, Suggs, and Fultz, Orlando registered 28 assists against Charlotte, which easily marked an early season-high (previous high was 21 assists on opening night against the Pistons, and again in their home opener against the Celtics).
Things went so well Friday for the Magic - and Banchero in particular - that M-V-P chants even began to slowly break out while Orlando’s first overall pick stepped to the free throw line against the Hornets.
“It’s been crazy. When I first got drafted here, all the staff just told me how much the city was ready to embrace me,” Banchero said after the game. “To actually get to this point and feel it - only being the second home game - and the crowd, feeling it. It just feels great, and I can’t be thankful enough for the fans and all the support so far. We’re just going to keep playing hard for them and keep trying to bring them wins, because they deserve it.”
Banchero and the Magic have another opportunity to get a win for their fans Sunday in Dallas, tipoff is set for 7:30 PM.