The Toronto Raptors held off a strong Orlando Magic rally in the fourth quarter on Friday night to win, 93-90, snapping Orlando's four-game winning streak. The game was the Magic's first of the season decided by three points or fewer.
The Magic trailed by 11 points--which deficit tied for their largest of the game--with 4:13 to go, but fought back with a series of defensive stands and clutch shooting. Gustavo Ayón drew a loose-ball foul on Amir Johnson with 90 seconds to go, converting both free throws, as Orlando had worked its way into the bonus. On the Raptors' next possession. J.J. Redick absorbed a elbow to the chest from Alan Anderson and fell to the floor, drawing an offensive foul. The ensuing possession ended with a Jameer Nelson three-pointer to bring Orlando within a point.
Johnson redeemed himself on the Raptors' next play, getting a key offensive rebound off a DeMar DeRozan miss; had the Magic secured that board, they would have had possession with 42 seconds to go and only trailing by one. Instead, Johnson converted two free throws--he drew a foul on Arron Afflalo while battling for the board--to provide the final margin.
Orlando's final two possessions were a comedy of errors. Down three after Johnson's free throws, the Magic ran a high pick-and-roll with J.J. Redick and Ayón. Redick tried to hit Ayón as the Mexican center rolled to the cup, but threw the pass too low. Ayón, still wearing a splint on his left hand due, had trouble securing the ball, and Raptors rookie Terrence Ross came up with it.
The Magic got a stop, forcing DeRozan into an off-balance 17-footer on Toronto's final trip, and again had a chance to tie the game. Redick missed a deep three-pointer--the official play-by-play lists it as a 29-foot attempt, and that estimate may be conservative--but Orlando scrambled to the long rebound... only for Nelson to fumble the ball away while trying to make something happen.
So ended Orlando's comeback bid, and four-game winning streak.
The Magic fell despite dominating the interior: Orlando outscored Toronto in the paint, 46-28, and won the rebounding battle by a 45-32 margin. Raptors center Jonas Valančiūnas left the game with a broken finger early in the first half, prompting Toronto coach Dwane Casey to play smaller lineups which surrounded Johnson with four perimeter-oriented players. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, without Glen Davis and unimpressed with what Andrew Nicholson and Josh McRoberts showed, matched Casey by playing his own smallish lineup, with mixed results.
Afflalo and Ayón had arguably their best games since joining the Magic over the summer: Afflalo scored a game-high 26 points and went perfect from the foul line (9-of-9) and three-point range (3-of-3). Ayón, meanwhile, recorded his first double-double in Magic pinstripes and closed the game ahead of starting center Nikola Vučević, who was no slouch himself with 16 points and 12 boards.
The third quarter proved decisive for Toronto, which led by just three points at halftime. The Raptors shot 9-of-13 outside the painted area and 3-of-3 on threes, with good shooting trumping sound Orlando defense which forced would-be drivers away from the rim. At the other end, the Magic shot 69.2 percent but lost ground overall because they committed eight turnovers. Nicholson, Afflalo, and Nelson had two apiece in the period.
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