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

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Max Strus, left, passes the ball around Orlando Magic guard Joe Ingles (7) during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Paolo Banchero and the rapidly maturing Orlando Magic are growing up fast in the NBA playoffs.

The 21-year-old All-Star forward scored 10 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter Friday night, helping one of the NBA's youngest teams overcome Donovan Mitchell's 50 points and hold off the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-96 to force a decisive Game 7 in their first-round playoff series.

Recommended Videos

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

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.

“We’ve definitely learned a lot through this series, seeing what works and what doesn’t work,” Banchero said. “Knowing what we have to do to win a game.”

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.

“I’m excited. It’s a do-or-die situation, so we’ll have to put together another special effort,” Banchero said, looking ahead to Sunday.

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.

“Our guys will be ready for the moment,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “They’ve been really good at home and we don’t expect that to change.”

Orlando improved from 22 wins in 2021-22, its first season under coach Jamahl Mosley, to 34 last year and 47 with a Southeast Division title this season.

“Being on the road for Game 7, the ability to come together and continue to grow each game, I think that’s what this group is looking forward to,” Mosley added. “It’s not going to be easy, nor do we want it to be easy. The harder it is, the better we will be.”

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 Magic trailed by as many as nine before closing within 78-73 heading into the fourth quarter.

Mitchell finished 22 of 36 from the field, including three of nine on 3-points attempts. He scored Cleveland's final 22 points, including all 18 in the fourth quarter.

“We did a great job of staying together and we were all locked in, but ultimately we didn't end up with the victory, so we just have to go home and take care of business,” Mitchell said. “We didn't win the game. At the end of the day, I had 50 but we lost.”


More AP NBA:

Recommended Videos