Magic crumble in second half, lose Game 7 despite Paolo Bachero’s 38 points and stellar series – Metro US

Magic crumble in second half, lose Game 7 despite Paolo Bachero’s 38 points and stellar series

Magic Cavaliers Basketball
Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero, center, drives to the basket between Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley, left, ad Isaac Okoro (35) in the second half of Game 7 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, May 5, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Paolo Banchero’s first taste of the NBA playoffs ended bitterly.

The Orlando Magic couldn’t finish what they started.

After opening an 18-point lead in the first half, the Magic caved under pressure as the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied for a 106-94 win in Game 7 on Sunday to end a back-and-forth series in which home court meant everything.

Banchero scored 38 points — his third game with at least 30 in the series — but it wasn’t enough as the Magic couldn’t stop Donovan Mitchell when they needed to and had their season end in disappointment.

It was quite an experience for the sensational 21-year-old Banchero, who said Game 7 was more than he imagined.

“It was a hell of an environment and probably the most intense game I’ve ever played in my life,” said the 2022 No. 1 overall pick. “Every possession, the toll it takes on your body and your mind is immense.”

As the Cavs chipped away at Orlando’s lead in the second half, Banchero said the Cleveland crowd was so loud that it was difficult for the Magic to call out offensive plays. He couldn’t hear the instructions he and his teammates were getting from coach Jamahl Mosley and his staff.

Still, the Magic were only down seven points going into the fourth before Mitchell, who finished with 39 and scored 89 combined in Games 6 and 7, put Orlando away.

It was a painful way for Orlando’s breakout season to end. The Magic won just 34 games a year ago and there weren’t many who predicted they would be a No. 5 seed heading into the playoffs.

Although the end was tough to swallow, one of the league’s youngest teams gained invaluable experience.

“I walked in the locker room and said this sucks,” Mosley said. “To be up 18 and have a chance to close it out, it doesn’t feel good. But sometimes painful losses are blessings in disguise. I know it sucks right now, but I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Mosley was adamant that his team didn’t lose its cool or fold.

“I don’t think there was a loss of composure,” he said. “They went on a heck of a run and we got stagnant a little bit. There was no whining, no moaning, no yelling. Our guys were focused on how to get the next shot.”

While Banchero did his part, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs shot a combined 3 for 28. Suggs, who sustained what appeared to be a serious ankle injury in the opener, was just 2 of 10 on 3-pointers.

“We got good looks and they just didn’t fall,” Suggs said. “I think we could live with that because we gave all we could. I’m sorry we couldn’t pull this one out.”

Wagner, who made bit shots and got under the Cavs’ skin throughout the series, was tough on himself.

“I expect a lot more from myself,” he said. “It sucks to end the season like this. I feel like I let my team down a little bit.”

Banchero had Wagner’s back and the rest of his teammates.

“This game doesn’t define him and it doesn’t define us,” he said. “He didn’t let anybody down. Sometimes, this happens. I’ve been in the same situation. I know we’ll be back.”

This was all new for Orlando, which will have its entire core back next season and is expected to be active in free agency.

Next year will bring higher expectations, but the Magic should be ready for them.

“We won’t be lacking this experience next season in the playoffs,” said center Jonathan Isaac. “We’ll have this on our resume and have a chip on our shoulder to get back.”

Banchero showed why he’s one of the league’s rising stars, a player just beginning to scratch his potential. He averaged 27.0 points and 8.6 rebounds in his first playoff series, and in Game 7 tied a team record with 15 free throws.

“Special,” Mosley said of his young star. “He wanted every ounce of what they were throwing at him. There is a reason why he’s an All-Star and is going to be All-NBA. He’s going to show up in big games.”

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA