Toronto Raptors 99, Orlando Magic 95

The Orlando Magic's 6-game winning streak ended Wednesday night as they faltered to the lowly Toronto Raptors, 99-95, on their home floor. Chris Bosh once again had a brilliant game against the Magic, registering 24 points and 12 rebounds in addition to scoring 6 of the Raptors' last 9 points to quell an Orlando rally. Shawn Marion, in his first game against the Magic as a Raptor, contributed 17 points, a game-high 15 rebounds, and 6 assists. Jose Calderon punished Rafer Alston on the pick-and-roll with 21 points on 13 shots. The defeat wasted a solid game from Dwight Howard, who had his way with all the defender the Raptors threw at him en route to 30 points. However, he missed 11 of his 21 free throws, and only collected 9 rebounds. Toronto, which ranks 22nd in the league in rebounding differential, held a decisive 49-35 advantage on the boards.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Raptors 91 108.8 51.8% 15.7 27.8 17.6
Magic 104.1 45.4% 34.2 18.8 11.0

If you didn't see the game and are wondering if this loss is as bad as it looks, the answer is yes. It was an all-around poor effort. Apart from the embarrassing rebounding differential, there is also shooting to consider. And while the Magic played tight defense in the fourth period, they were four periods too late. Five Raptors shot better than 50% from the field, and the team shot 49.4% overall as Orlando was a step late on many of its rotations. The game was indeed very similar to the loss to Toronto in January, when the Raptors got off to a hot start with 34 first-period points on 14-of-21 shooting. Tonight? 32 first-period points on 14-of-21 shooting for the visiting squad. Orlando hung with 'em, scoring 28 points in the first frame itself, but was never able to get into a groove offensively.

But it wasn't just about the Raptors' great shooting; it was about the Magic's bad shooting. Toronto rates as one of the league's worse defensive teams, yet Orlando struggled to get easy looks against it for much of the night. It's a good thing Howard came through inside--10 of-16 shooting for Dwight, all close to the basket--because the rest of the team shot 21-of-60. I give Hedo Turkoglu a lot of credit for being active and driving the ball to the basket. Turk scored 19 points, but shot only 4-of-12. He got away with it, though, by drawing fouls and converting his free throws, going 10-of-11 from the stripe. The rest of the team shot 16-of-30.

It may seem simplistic to cut out the Magic's best performers in two categories, thus making the rest of the team look worse by comparison. And maybe it is simplistic. But I believe such analysis works with tonight's game, as Dwight and Turk were the only guys who really "brought it" on offense. I hate to overlook Rashard Lewis, who made 4 of the team's 7 three-pointers... but he became one-dimensional despite the Raptors' overall poor perimeter defense. 11 trey attempts for Rashard, and only 8 two-point attempts. He needs to be more balanced offensively if the Magic hope the enjoy any sort of playoff success.

Most bizarre was Lewis' final 3-point attempt, which would have knotted the game at 98 had it gone in. Coming out of the Magic's final timeout, Lewis curled around a screen and caught the inbounds pass on the left wing. His defender, Chris Bosh, got clobbered on a screen. Anthony Parker or Marion--I can't remember which--was the closest Raptor defender to Lewis... 10 feet away, guarding somebody else. It was, quite literally, the most wide-open look anyone on either team saw tonight.

And it was short and to the right, bouncing off the front iron to effectively end Orlando's hopes of winning.

But what's this? The Magic foul Shawn Marion on the rebound and he misses the first free throw? KEEP HOPE ALIVE! The Raptors may be the league's best free-throw-shooting team, but it is April Fool's Day, after all. His second shot is up.... and no good! The Magic have a chance!

Not. That's because Parker snuck in and grabbed the biggest rebound of the game, giving the Raptors a second chance to ice the win. Now I'm not saying that his rebound lost the game for Orlando, since there's no guarantee it would have scored on the ensuing possession; it was, after all, out of timeouts. But, to put it simply, that's a rebound you have to have. And the Magic didn't get it.

Joey Graham missed this first free throw, making the game slightly more interesting... but he connected on the second, giving the Raptors a 4-point lead with 5 seconds to play. That one did it.

Well, that one, and all the freebies Orlando missed. 15 in total, which is three fewer than the Raptors attempted as a team. If Orlando shoots even 75% as a team, the game goes into overtime at worst.

Curious that, with the Magic's offense needing a boost, Stan Van Gundy never called on J.J. Redick.

Orlando now stares a brutal back-to-back right in the face: Friday versus Cleveland and Saturday at Atlanta. If the Magic aren't careful, they'll be on a 3-game losing skid headed into the second-to-last-week of the season and with homecourt advantage on the line. That's a recipe for disaster. Fortunately for them, the Magic can't give a worse effort than they did for the first 38 minutes of tonight's game. It can only get better, right?

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