It wasn’t always pretty, and for a moment it looked like a soul-crushing loss was looming, but Orlando managed to hang on and narrowly escape the Raptors’ 4th quarter comeback, walking out with a 114-113 victory. Nikola Vucevic was a big part of the win, scoring 25 points to go with 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 blocks. Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 33, 7 and 6, 22 of those points in the second half. Orlando held a 53-46% shooting advantage over their Canadian counterparts, an unusual accomplishment for an Orlando team that so often finds itself shooting far worse than its opponents.
If there’s been a common format for several of the Magic’s blowout losses, its an early-game shootout until the point when the Magic can’t keep up. For the first five minutes, the teams traded blows evenly on offense, with most of the firepower on Orlando’s end coming from Vucevic. He was 5-8 in the first for 11 points, enjoying his matchup against Jonas Valanciunas. Meanwhile, the Raptors scoring success came across the board, with all 9 players scoring who entered the game. The Magic continued to hold even, with the score tied at 23 with about 3 minutes left in the period, when the Raptors finally gained some ground, finishing the quarter on a 13-3 run to take control of the game, leading 36-27.
Given the success of the Raptors’ bench units (particularly those led by Lowry), it was surprising that the Magic would find the most success in the second quarter. After a fairly uneventful start to the quarter, the Magic went on a massive 19-0 run, fueled again by Vucevic’s masterful offense. He personally accounted for 13 of those points, scoring 8 and assisting on 2 other baskets. Critically, he went 3-3 from beyond the arc in the first half, which drew Valanciunas out of the paint and created opportunities for others. Even more importantly, the Magic finally found some of that defensive energy that’s been so elusive the last two months. Orlando used that run, and the 33-15 quarter overall, to take a 60-51 halftime lead.
Orlando’s offensive explosion slowed down in the third, but not enough to give up their entire lead. The two teams again traded blows, but it was Lowry and DeRozan that would help the Raptors gain the upper hand, the former bombing two 3-pointers in a row on the way to 8 points, and the latter taking advantage of Payton to attack off the dribble, getting 11. For Orlando, C.J. Watson was the unlikely high scorer, getting 8 points, but on the whole Orlando had a hard time manufacturing the offense the way they did during their big second quarter run. Still, they continued to hold onto a small lead, 82-78.
The fourth was an up-and-down affair, at times encouraging with each Magic run, and at other times all-too-stressful as they found ways to throw those leads away. D.J. Augustin continued the parade of backup point guards to make shots for the Magic, scoring 11 points thanks to several crucial 3-pointers. With about half the quarter remaining, Orlando looked like they would hold on comfortably thanks to a 100-86 edge, but Toronto’s offense would not go down quietly. They used their unnatural ability to get to the line (13-17 in the quarter) to slowly drag themselves back into it, pulling within 4 with 2 minutes left.
Again, the Magic made what looked like enough plays to lock up the game, as Green scored a layup and 3-pointer to give the Magic a 9-point edge. Again, the Raptors went on a dizzying run, getting the score within 3 with 14 seconds left. Fortunately, Orlando was able to do just enough in the free throw game, clinging to the 1-point victory.