Orlando Magic 125, Toronto Raptors 116

Paced by a dominant performance from their backcourt, the shorthanded Orlando Magic held on to defeat the Toronto Raptors, 125-116, in a game which--as the score indicates--featured very little defense on either side. J.J. Redick filled in admirably for the absent Vince Carter, with a Carter-esque linescore of 27 points (a career-high), 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Meanwhile, Jameer Nelson scored 30, just 2 points shy of his career-high. Their brilliance overshadows that of Dwight Howard (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Ryan Anderson (20 and 6). Orlando needed every bit of their production, as the Raptors' frontcourt of Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh, and Hedo Turkoglu lit 'em up to the tune of 80 points on 26-of-45 shooting.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 91 137.0 54.3% 43.9 32.6 9.9
Raptors 127.5 60.8% 35.1 28.1 15.4

Without three starters (of whom 2 are All-Stars) the Magic easily reached triple-figure scoring, on the road. They took care of the ball, forced turnovers, got good shots, and got some key rebounds down the stretch. Orlando even led by 22 points in the first half before missing 12 consecutive field goals, which allowed the Raptors back in the game. Discounting that shooting drought, the Magic registered an effective field goal percentage of 63.6%.

With the game in the balance, it was the Magic's newcomers hustling down rebounds to keep the Raptors away. The key sequence comes after Turkoglu's three-point play to bring Toronto within 7 with less than 2 minutes to play; a big deficit, but not insurmountable. Nelson runs the clock on Orlando's ensuing possession before uncorking an off-balance jump shot that hits the front rim and bounces back toward him. Both Anderson and Matt Barnes are in the area, and slap the ball away from a would-be Raptor rebounder and into the Magic's backcourt, where Nelson retrieves it and sets up the offense once more. Orlando works the ball inside to Howard, who goes up strong, but Bosh swats his shot out of bounds with 6 seconds to shoot. Nelson takes a long three-pointer, but misses short again. Howard's there for the rebound, and kicks the ball back out again. More time dwindles away, and the possession ends with Antoine Wright fouling Redick, who sinks 2 free throws to make the lead 123-114, Orlando. All told, the Magic's offensive rebounding took 70 seconds off the clock, ending the Raptors' comeback hopes.

So it's an impressive win, given the circumstances. It's worrisome that the D was so poor, especially on the frontcourt players. Barnes wound up with 6 steals--one two short of tying a Nick Anderson's franchise record--but had trouble keeping up with Turkoglu on the perimeter. Anderson couldn't handle Bosh inside, while nobody seemed willing to close out on Bargnani (4-of-5 from three-point range) at all. The Magic were shorthanded at the swing positions, with Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus unavailable, so if anything it should have been the Raptors' backcourt tearing it up. Defense remains a concern for Orlando on the young season.

Offense? Not a problem. 125 points on 91 possessions for a team missing two of its top 4 players... that's impressive, even against a soft opponent like the Raptors. The Magic did their damage from the perimeter, as Howard struggled inside. He was blocked as often as he converted, with 5 rejections against and 5 made field goals. Where he made the Raptors pay was at the foul line, of all places: 14-of-16 from the stripe, on a day when Raptors point guard Jose Calderon--fresh off the best single-season free-throw shooting performance in NBA history--went 4-of-6. Bizarre, but not as bizarre as some of the Magic's lineups. We saw the rarely used combination of Howard and center and Marcin Gortat, his backup, at power forward; we also saw Redick shift to small forward to accommodate a two-point guard backcourt of Nelson and Anthony Johnson. These wacky combinations won't be a mainstay once everyone is healthy again, and it's a credit to Magic coach Stan Van Gundy that he was able to guide his team to victory using never-before-seen lineups. The Raptors are the most talented team the Magic have faced so far, and were only missing one rotation player (power forward Reggie Evans) to the Magic's three.

In short, this win should boost the Magic's confidence, despite their poor defense. It's hard not to come away impressed with their resolve and offensive skill after a game like today's. They need to fix the defense in a hurry, though, as a back-to-back set with the Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns looms after an off-day tomorrow.

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