Banchero's 32 points lifts Magic over Pelicans, Zion Williamson injures his finger


NEW ORLEANS — The physical, swarming play of Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic so frustrated New Orleans that three Pelicans players were ejected in the game’s final seconds.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Banchero said, referring to the back-to-back-to-back ejections of Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III and Dyson Daniels. “I’m not going to say we were the reason that happened, but I think just our play definitely frustrates you a little bit.”

Banchero scored 32 points — his 10th time reaching at least 30 points this season — and Orlando defeated New Orleans 117-108 on Wednesday night to lift the Magic half a game in front of the idle New York Knicks for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Zion Williamson scored 15 points but was limited by a finger injury on his left hand — the apparent result of a block at the rim on Jalen Suggs’ layup attempt late in the second quarter.

Williamson played for parts of the third and fourth quarters and appeared fortunate to avoid further injury when his legs were cut out from under him by Gary Harris, who slipped and fell while attempting to poke the ball away from the Pelicans’ star power forward.

Williamson later went to the locker room with trainers to have his finger checked, Pelicans coach Willie Green said, before returning to the game. He scored his final points on a dunk in the fourth quarter, but checked out for good shortly after being assessed a technical foul with more than seven minutes remaining.

“I’m not sure exactly what the diagnosis is. I’m hoping he’s OK,” said Green, whose team already was without high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram because of a bone bruise in his left knee.

Franz Wagner scored 24 points and Moritz Wagner added 18 points for the Magic, who exhibited toughness and composure while winning their third straight game.

“That’s about as physical as you can get,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said, adding that his team’s ability to remain poised in such a game is a “big-time sign of growth for a young team that continues to learn how to win in these moments.”

“You’re getting hit, you’re getting grabbed, you’re getting held — all those things, which is OK with us,” Mosley added. “We embrace the physical. That’s fine.”

CJ McCollum had 36 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which has lost three straight and four of five, slipping from fourth to sixth in the Western Conference, just half a game in front of seventh-place Sacramento.

“I know we want to be better and we will,” Green said. “But right now, we’ve got to regroup, keep our heads up and continue to go after it.”

Wendell Carter Jr. had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando, which shot 51.3% (41 of 80) and led by as many as 20 points when Moritz Wagner’s free throws made it 104-84 with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter.

New Orleans pulled to 112-106 on Daniels’ layup with 35 seconds left, but Banchero responded with a dunk to virtually put it away. Soon after came the ejections of Jones, Murphy and Daniels, apparently for comments made to officials.

“I get it, some calls aren’t going our way, we feel like other teams are getting those calls and our guys are frustrated about it — rightfully so,” Green said. “At the end of the game we have to keep our composure.”

Daniels finished with 16 points and Murphy 14.

Banchero had 18 of his points in the first half. His driving and cutting dunks in the final minute of the second quarter gave Orlando a 58-52 lead before Murphy’s 3 made it 58-55 at halftime.

“My teammates tell me and my coaches tell me all the time, I’ve got to set the tone,” Banchero said. “When I’m carrying that responsibility, I can’t take it lightly because we’re in a crucial part of the season.”

UP NEXT

Magic: Visit Charlotte on Friday night in the second of a two-game road swing.

Pelicans: Host San Antonio on Friday night to close out a six-game home stand.

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



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