NBA: Magic dreams of play-in thanks to Paolo Banchero and Wagner brothers

The Orlando Magic aren’t about to give up their play-in dream just yet, thanks largely to Paolo Banchero. The Boston Celtics have lost the top spot in the Eastern Conference for the time being.

Jimmy Butler takes out his ex-team with a wonderful move – and the Charlotte Hornets suffer a bitter injury shock.

Charlotte Hornets (20-43) – Detroit Pistons (15-47) 117:106 (BOXSCORE)

  • The fifth consecutive Hornets victory was overshadowed by a bitter injury. LaMelo Ball was on course for another good game and was already on six three-pointers when he went down without contact in the third quarter and had to be substituted. After the game, Charlotte quickly announced the result of an X-ray examination: Ball had broken the ankle in his right foot.
  • Gordon Hayward then stated that no one in the team had expected such a serious injury. “It’s really tough because he’s a crucial part of our team and we felt like we were slowly turning in the right direction.” In fact, the second weakest team in the East played clearly improved recently, Ball himself had sunk at least five three-pointers for the fifth time in a row. Now it is to be expected that he will not be used for the rest of the season, especially since the playoffs are long out of reach.
  • It was also played. Charlotte started out dominant and was already leading by 20 points after the first quarter. Five minutes from time, the Pistons went 24 points down to 5, but Terry Rozier (22 points) and outsider Kelly Oubre (18) quickly found an answer. Ball had 18 points, Hayward had 19, and rookie center Mark Williams delivered a double-double (15, 11 rebounds).
  • For the Pistons, James Wiseman made his best game so far after the substitution (23 points, 9/11 FG, 7 rebounds), Hamidou Diallo also had 23. Marvin Bagley (21, 12 rebounds) and Killian Hayes (12, 10 assists) delivered double-doubles.

Philadelphia 76ers (39-21) – Miami Heat (33-29) 99:101 (BOXSCORE)

  • If two such strong defensive teams meet, the game can sometimes be decided by a layup with 1:28 minutes left on the clock. That’s what happened in this game: After the Sixers had closed an 11-point deficit in the last quarter, it was Jimmy Butler who just before the end sunk an acrobatic layup in the basket and set it to 100:99 for Miami.
  • After a spin move, the Heat star completed a remarkable up-and-under between PJ Tucker and Joel Embiid, the Heat then closed their basket and a free throw from Butler again (8 seconds before the end) was to be the last point in this game. “I work on promotions like this every day,” Butler later said. “I love this game and the competition, but it’s always more fun when we win.”
  • In any case, it was one of the better wins of the season for the Heat, even if it got really tight towards the end – as always. The defense held tight, the Sixers’ last field goal was a jumper by Joel Embiid (27 points, 10/17 FG, 12 rebounds, 6 turnovers) three minutes before the end. Shortly before the end, James Harden (20, 5/14, 12 assists) still had a chance to win with a three pointer, but didn’t find the target.
  • The top sixer in the second half was Tyrese Maxey, who scored 19 of his 23 points after the break and led his team’s comeback. But Butler had the last laugh. The former sixer had 23 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals. Gabe Vincent added 14 points to the win, while Bam Adebayo and Max Strus each had 13.

New York Knicks (36-27) – Boston Celtics (44-18) 109:94 (BOXSCORE)

  • The Celtics have lost the top spot in the NBA. Losing to the red-hot New York Knicks (six straight wins) sees home advantage in the playoffs go to Milwaukee for the moment, and the frustration was to see Boston’s late-stage superstar. Anger at missing calls and another poor showing saw Jayson Tatum get knocked out for the first time in his career. It wasn’t his night before (14 points, 6/18 FG, 9 assists, 7 rebounds).
  • But that was true for the whole team. Boston scored just 15 points in the starting quarter and went on to trail a deficit that stayed in double digits for much of the second half. There was no real comeback in the end, the Knicks always found the right answer. “As well as they hit the three, you know that no lead is ever certain,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards, whose team never let up defensively.
  • Boston only hit a chilling 9/42 from Downtown in that game. Malcolm Brogdon made a good game coming off the bench (22 points) and Marcus Smart had 19, but otherwise it was a very disappointing performance. “It just wasn’t good today. The Knicks were better than us,” admitted Al Horford candidly.
  • The hosts actually had a better balance and clear advantages, including on the free-throw line (34 to 14 free throws) and in rebounds (44 to 35). Julius Randle and Immanuel Quickley led the New Yorkers with 23 points each, Jalen Brunson had 17, and Mitchell Robinson had a double-double (10, 13 rebounds). His representative Isaiah Hartenstein remained very inconspicuous (0 points, 0/1 FG, 1 rebound in 16 minutes).

New Orleans Pelicans (30-32) – Orlando Magic (26-36) 93:101 (BOXSCORE)

  • Is there still something going on in terms of play-in for the Magic? Mathematically it is at least still possible, and currently no team from the 10-13 range in the East is in better shape than Orlando. They proved that again in this game, which in the end was decided by their two top talents in the forward positions.
  • Paolo Banchero sank three jumpers in the final minutes and increased his points tally to 29. With the third throw, he gave his team a 4-point lead, which was then shattered by a floater by Franz Wagner (11 points, 4/10 FG, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) 25 seconds before the end has been confirmed. The defense held, which is why New Orleans could not make a comeback.
  • “In moments like this you just have to be able to get points somehow. I was confident that I could do it,” said Banchero, who was pleased with the confidence of his teammates. “We’re very tight as a group and I think moments like that show on the court.”
  • It was Banchero’s (10/18 FG) 30th game with at least 20 points in his rookie season. In Magic history, only Shaq (60) has more, now surpassing Penny Hardaway as the #1 pick. Good games were also shown by Markelle Fultz (14, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and Moritz Wagner, who also played 14 from the bench (4/9 FG). Wendell Carter Jr. came up with a double-double (11, 11 rebounds).
  • With the Pelicans, Brandon Ingram (25 points) and CJ McCollum (18) were too much on their own, NOLA hardly managed anything from Downtown (6/27 threes). After a short interim high, the Pelicans have already lost 4 games in a row and are in danger of losing the play-in place shortly.

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