Setback in Atlanta ends trip as Magic's Banchero sits

Jason Beede, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

Paolo Banchero missed the first game of his sophomore season Sunday night at Atlanta in a 109-92 loss by the Magic (32-26).

The Magic forward, who lifted Orlando over the Pistons on the first night of a back-to-back Saturday in Detroit by hitting a jumper in the closing seconds, has been battling an illness.

Although Banchero was able to play through the ailment during the first two matchups of the Magic’s three-game trip, coach Jamahl Mosley stressed the importance of taking care of his body entering the final stretch of the regular season that includes a playoff push.

“It said a lot for what he was able to do,” Mosley said about Banchero pre-game Sunday. “It was a physical basketball game. It did take a lot out of him.

“His ability to get himself better in these moments is going to be very important for us for the long haul.”

Orlando (32-25) was also without veteran guard Gary Harris against Atlanta (24-32). Harris, who had started the last two games, sat Sunday due to right calf injury maintenance.

He previously missed 16 games (Dec. 27-29, Jan. 5-31) due to a right calf strain. It marked the second time since his return to action that he didn’t play in the second night of a back-to-back.

With Banchero and Harris out, Mosley not only turned toward a new starting lineup against the Hawks but an entire group of players who had yet to play together this season.

Orlando started rookie Anthony Black with backcourt mate Jalen Suggs plus big men Franz Wagner (team-high 19 points), Wendell Carter Jr. and Goga Bitadze as Mosley leaned on a larger lineup.


The Magic coach pointed to the group’s basketball IQ and size as two factors that went into starting them together.

“What we’ve always talked about being is kind of our ‘go-to’ — being able to dominate with our athleticism as well as our size,” Mosley said. “Then another piece that goes into that is wanting to keep that second unit together. They’ve done such a great job with their chemistry and how they flow off one another. Making sure we keep that group together.”

Although Banchero and Harris were out, point guard Markelle Fultz was available for the first time following the NBA All-Star break.

Fultz missed three games in a row due to left knee injury maintenance after he previously sat out 27 in a row due to tendinitis. As he’s done in the past, Mosley is considering the future in regard to Fultz’s health.

The left knee is the same one that Fultz had surgery on to repair a torn ACL eight games into the 2020-21 season.

“It’s a lot of the long game,” Mosley said. “Just being able to slowly get him back into the fold with these guys. Monitoring how he feels pulling up after games is going to continue to be important for each one of these guys.”

Orlando returns home for a Tuesday night matchup with the Brooklyn Nets (21-35), who recently fired former Magic coach Jacque Vaughn.

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