Banchero's 32 points beat Pelicans, Zion Williamson's finger hurts.

New Orleans— Three New Orleans players were dismissed in the final seconds due to Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic's tough, swarming tactics. “I’ve never seen that before,” Banchero said of Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, and Dyson Daniels’ back-to-back ejections. “I'm not saying we caused it, but our play definitely frustrates you.”

Orlando defeated New Orleans 117-108 on Wednesday night to move within half a game of the idle New York Knicks for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Banchero scored 32 points, his 10th of the season. Zion Williamson scored 15 points but was limited by a left-hand finger injury after a late second-quarter block on Jalen Suggs' basket attempt.  

Williamson played parts of the third and fourth quarters and appeared to avert further harm when Gary Harris stumbled and fell while trying to take the ball away from him.  

Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson returned to the game after having his finger evaluated in the locker room with trainers. He scored his final points on a fourth-quarter slam but left after being called for a technical foul with almost seven minutes left.  

“I don't know the diagnosis. Green, whose team was already without high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram due to a left knee bone injury, hoped he was OK. The Magic won their third straight game with tenacity and composure as Franz Wagner scored 24 points and Moritz Wagner added 18.  

“That’s about as physical as you can get,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said, adding that his team’s poise 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, grabbed, held — all those things, which is OK with us,” Mosley said. We embrace physicality. That’s fine.” New Orleans has lost three straight and four of five, falling from fourth to sixth in the Western Conference, half a game ahead of seventh-place Sacramento. CJ McCollum scored 36 points and 10 rebounds.  

“I know we want to be better and we will,” added Green. But right now, we must reorganize, stay positive, and keep going.” Orlando shot 51.3% (41 of 80) and led by 20 points after Moritz Wagner's free throws made it 104-84 with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter. Wendell Carter Jr. had 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Banchero's basket with 35 seconds left put it away after Daniels' layup pushed New Orleans within 112-106. Following their statements to officials, Jones, Murphy, and Daniels were ejected. “I get it, some calls aren't going our way, we feel like other teams are getting them, and our guys are frustrated — rightfully so,” Green said. “We must stay calm at the end of the game.” Daniels scored 16 and Murphy 14.  

Banchero scored 18 first-half points. His driving and cutting dunks in the closing minute of the second quarter gave Orlando a 58-52 lead before Murphy's 3-pointer made it 58-55 at halftime “My teammates and coaches tell me all the time, I've got to set the tone,” Banchero said. “We're in a crucial part of the season, so I can't take that responsibility lightly.”  

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