Paolo Banchero’s Last-Second Heroics Lifts Orlando Magic Over Detroit Pistons, 112-109

Paolo Banchero had only scored 12 points through the first 47 minutes and 59.2 seconds of the game. But with 0.8 seconds remaining and the score tied at 109-109, he hit a step-back 18-foot jumper from the left wing and was fouled by Detroit Pistons’ starting center Jalen Duren.

The bucket and the subsequent free throw from Banchero sealed the game for the Orlando Magic as they knocked off the Detroit Pistons 112-109 in the Pistons’ first game at Little Caesars Arena in nearly three weeks. The loss drops the Pistons to 8-48 on the season, while the Magic push their record to 32-25.

It was Detroit’s second consecutive home loss to Orlando, as Detroit’s last home game prior to the All-Star break was a 111-99 loss to the Magic on Feb. 4.

Banchero’s game-winner came on a controversial call. As the reigning rookie of the year inbounded the ball and Duren got switched onto him for the defensive assignment. Banchero got a one-on-one clear out. He drove left, away from the Pistons creeping defenders. With a step back, he was able to create space from Duren, but he appeared to shuffle his feet and got Duren to leave his feet. Duren’s foul was clear, and Banchero flung the ball into the air and it dropped for the go-ahead bucket.

After the game, Pistons Head Coach Monty Williams acknowledged that the play was controversial.

“The foul was questionable, and he throws it up in the air and it falls in the basket. What are you gonna do? (Duren) is beating himself up and he shouldn’t. He was trying to make the right play,” Williams said.

The other storyline in the game was the lack of free throw shooting by the Pistons. Only one Pistons starter, Duren, shot free throws this game. He went 4-of-6 from the stripe. It was the second consecutive game that Cade Cunningham failed to take even one free throw attempt. Williams noted that the lack of foul calls in favor of the Pistons wasn’t due to the lack of them making aggressive moves in the paint.

Despite Cunningham not making it to the charity stripe, he still finished with a game-high 26 points. He also added seven assists and four rebounds on the night. With the Pistons down three with less than a second remaining, he missed a 77-foot heave off the front rim that would’ve sent the game into overtime. In the Pistons prior possession, he was able to drive aggressively to the rack, and despite contact with a non-call, he tied the game up with a made layup with 12.4 seconds left in the game, leading to Banchero’s heroic game ender.

Banchero’s 15 points led an extremely balanced Magic scoring attack, as eight Orlando players scored in double figures, including at least 11 points from all five starters.

After a seesaw first quarter, the first significant run of the game for either team was an 8-0 rally by the Magic when they took a 54-44 lead with about four minutes left in the second quarter. The run was snapped when Detroit newcomer Simone Fontecchio, who made his Pistons home debut since being acquired from Utah, hit a three pointer to make it 54-47 with 3:46 remaining in the half.

After a Fontecchio layup with 1.8 seconds remaining, the Pistons ignored Banchero lingering beneath his basket and allowed Jalen Suggs to pull his best Pat Mahomes impersonation by throwing the ball some 90 feet downcourt to Banchero, who hit got a layup and got fouled before the buzzer. He missed the free throw, but the basket put the Magic up 65-55 at the half.

The Pistons came storming back right out of the intermission, though, going on a 19-7 run in the first 4:23 of the third quarter to turn their 10-point deficit into a 74-72 lead. Cunningham and Duren scored nine points in 63 seconds to close the gap before Cunningham’s three a couple minutes later gave the Pistons their first lead since the score was 33-32 early in the second quarter.

The Magic didn’t let the Pistons get comfortable, though, outscoring Detroit by seven points from that time to close the quarter up 90-85. By the end of the third, all five Magic starters had reached double figures.

“I was proud of the way we hung in there,” Williams said. “Only giving up 47 points in the second half to a team that was having their way says a lot about what we can do. We had a few miscues down the stretch with turnovers…but the new guys are starting to figure out how to play the way we want to play.”

The Pistons are off until Feb. 27 when they travel to Chicago to take on the Bulls, and they play next at home on March 1 when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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