Holding a nine point lead going into halftime, things were looking good for the Orlando Magic against the Toronto Raptors, one of the leagues two remaining unbeaten teams. However, things turned south quickly for the Magic, who saw their lead evaporate before one could blink.
Coming out of halftime, Toronto jumped on the Magic, something they've done multiple times already this season, going on a lightning quick 19-4 run to take control of the game. The run prompted Magic head man Scott Skiles to turn to his bench, substituting out all five of his starters, for reserves. While the unit struggled to find some traction early, they were able to steady the ship and get the Magic going again.
Now, finding themselves down for the first time since the early stages of the game, the Magic rebounded, answering the Raptors strong third quarter with a dominating fourth of their own. Like they did in the first half, the Magic locked down the Raptors, holding them to 8-of-21 shooting in the quarter, including just one three pointer.
More importantly, Orlando was able to keep Toronto off the offensive glass, holding the visitors to just three offensive rebounds in the quarter. Keeping the gritty Raptors off the offensive glass, something the team struggled mightily with throughout the entirety of the game, held them to only two second chance points, their fewest in any of the four quarters.
Despite being able to limit the Raptors all quarter, the Magic still found themselves in a tight one, needing desperately to run their offense smoothly to find good, quality looks. They were able to do so, finding Evan Fournier coming off a screen for a three-pointer for only his second made shot of the night to that point. On the following possession, the Frenchman. who struggled with his shot throughout the night, came up clutch once again, calmly finishing a driving layup to put the Magic up three.
Answering the call once again on the defensive end, the team was able to come up with key stops, keeping the Raptors from tying, or even taking the lead. The defense swarmed and came up big, while the offense gave them just enough to pull out the victory.
It might not have been pretty, but the fact they were able to show progress and finish a tight game late is a welcoming sign. They've played in six games, all of which have been decided by nine points or less, and shown improvement in all six of them.
Follwing the game, Skiles said he thought his team was better late in yet another tight game. "I won't know if we grew from it or not until the games keep coming, but we were better," said the Magic's head man. "We were trying to play the right way, and share the ball, and as I said, we had those good looks. We got those good looks because we were making the right play and then we went in to Tobias [Harris], we wanted to go to him in the post, he got fouled. Good play there. So, we made progress."
The players knew that it was a quality win for the team against a very formidable opponent as well. Jason Smith claimed it was a "great win" for the team, especially considering they were finally able to get over the hump. "We've had a lot of close games lately, and to go out against a team like that who's undefeated and playing really well, it was a great win for us," said the veteran big man.
Fournier, who came up huge for the team once again, shared the same sentiments that Smith did. "It feels great. It feels great, especially against Toronto," said Fournier, who admitted after the game he loves his new knickname of "Never Google." "They killed us last year. They were 5-0. It's a very good team, especially the way we did it. We fought through adversity and we had a good win."
While it's still early in the season, and the team still had some struggles against the Raptors, bouncing back the way they did was huge. Last season, whenever the team would lose a lead, they were in danger of being blown out, no matter what the circumstances.
Seeing them bounce back the way that they did, and answer the Raptors big run was huge. They still have work to do in late game situations, and still need to find ways to hold onto leads and not go through long stretches with very low energy, but progress was made yet again.