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Paolo Banchero breaking out of slump as Magic head West for road trip

Orlando Magic rookie forward Paolo Banchero wasn’t concerned about the offensive slump he was going through entering 2023.

“As long as I’m getting to where I need to get to and getting the shot I want,” he said, “I’m never going to feel flustered or worried about anything.”

Banchero averaged 13.3 points (28.6% shooting, 12.5% on 3s), 5 rebounds and 3 assists in the three losses to close out 2022.

As Banchero and the Magic saw it, he was getting the shots and to the spots on the floor he wanted to. He was simply missing the looks he typically makes.

“It’s one thing if you’re not getting the shots where you want them and you’re taking bad shots,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “He was getting where he wanted to go. Part of that is a different level of concentration. Maybe it’s some rest at different times. He’s getting there — he’s getting to the basket, he’s getting to the spots he wants to. We’ll have the discussion when he’s not getting there and how to adjust to what defenses are doing to him. That’s a different discussion.”

That discussion won’t be necessary, with Banchero having strong performances to start the new year.

He had 25 points (8-of-17 shooting), 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the Wednesday home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, including 9 points in the fourth to render the Thunder’s comeback attempt unsuccessful.

The next night he had 30 points (10-of-20 shooting), 9 rebounds and 3 assists in the home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Banchero scored 20 of those points in the third quarter to kick off the Magic’s comeback that ultimately fell short.

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The production and efficiency aren’t the only things that made those performances notable.

Just like when the shots weren’t falling, he still worked to get to his spots — attacking the rim, setting up his pull-up, quickly shooting off the catch and getting to the free throw line. Banchero knocked down 15 of 18 free throws over the last two games.

“He’s moving in that direction,” Mosley responded when asked how Banchero compares to the league’s elite players. “This is a special young man. The great part about him is his ability to trust his teammates to find the open man, to want to make the right play. Anytime he is out there he is looking to make and create for his team. And make winning plays.”

The Magic (14-25) will start their season-long five-road trip against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

The road swing ends against the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 15.

Bol Bol (health and safety protocols), R.J. Hampton (G League assignment), Kevon Harris (transferred to G League as part of his two-way contract), Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery) and Chuma Okeke (left knee surgery) won’t be available.

Mosley said Bol will join the team on the road once he clears protocols. Hampton is expected to rejoin the Magic on Sunday ahead of Monday’s matchup against the Sacramento Kings. Isaac and Okeke didn’t travel.

Moe Wagner will be available after completing his two-game suspension Thursday.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at khprice@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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