Magical Rookie (Magic at Wizards; 03.31.23)

Rodney Pierce/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

WASHINGTON — Paralleling the splendid play of the man who likely will take of the league’s Rookie of the Year Award, the Orlando Magic are putting together an end of the season that gives a lot of hope to the immediate future of a franchise that is young, yet very talented, in many of the important parts of the team.

Rookie Paolo Banchero scored 30 points, one of three Magic players to score over 20, as Orlando defeated the Washington Wizards 116-109 inside of Capital One Arena on Friday evening. Markelle Fultz added 25 points while Franz Wagner chipped in with 20 as the Magic have won four of their last five ball games.

Banchero, the No. 1 overall draft pick out of Duke last spring, also grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out six assists and blocked three shots, and in the process became the first rookie this season to post a 30-10-5 stat line in a game.

Despite Banchero’s efforts early on, the shorthanded Wizards opened up a lead as much as 16 points in the third quarter and entered the fourth with a 96-85 advantage. From there, Wagner and Cole Anthony took over, combining to score 18 of the Magic’s 31 points in the quarter as Orlando outscored Washington 31-13. The Magic shot 60 percent (9-of-15) from the field in the final stanza and held the Wizards to just 1-of-11 from three-point range, as the Magic’s zone defense stymied Washington’s offense and held it to just five makes from the field in the final 12 minutes.

Anthony’s three-pointer with 5:51 remaining gave Orlando the lead for good at 105-103. Seven if Anthony’s 16 points came in the fourth.

The Wizards, who are now three games back of Chicago for 10th place with five games remaining, played without its top three scorers: Bradley Beal (knee), Kristaps Porzingis (illness) and Kyle Kuzma (ankle).

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s game, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Rodney Pierce. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 22 pictures in total.

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