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Groundhog day: Magic down Raptors 102-94 at home

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Amid a 4-12 stretch, the Magic secured their second win in five days over one of the league’s best teams

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

During last year’s playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers appeared to have a matchup advantage over the Toronto Raptors. So far this season, that title has gone to the Orlando Magic.

Though critics of the Magic’s twin towers approach would say its stuck in the past, that type of smash-mouthed basketball is perfect for stopping the old school game of the Raptors.

The Magic defense held strong, limiting the fifth-ranked Toronto offense to just 94 points and 39 percent shooting on Friday.

“We haven’t held a team to under 40 percent shooting in I can’t remember how long,” said Magic coach Frank Vogel, “my vision was that we’d do this on a regular basis and that’s still the plan.”

In fact, it was a steal that sealed the game in the home team’s favor. Magic point guard C.J. Watson robbed Kyle Lowry, his friend and offseason workout partner, in the game’s closing minutes. The play came just after Lowry, on the eve of his third All-Star appearance, nailed a step-back three-pointer to cut the Raptors deficit to four.

It was possibly the best game in a Magic uniform for Watson, whose pesky defense limited Lowry to 5-of-20 from the floor.

“We work out together in the summer so I have some familiarity with him,” said Watson on Lowry, “it’s pretty easy to guard him.”

On the offensive end, Watson tied his Magic career high with 18 points on an efficient 5-of-6 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the line. He also chipped in three rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

A huge part of the Magic’s success on the defensive end came by forcing the Raptors to take jump shots. Toronto wracked up 36 points in the paint in the first half, but were limited to just 10 in the second.

After being bullied by Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas to the tune of 13 points by halftime, Magic center Nikola Vucevic responded by scoring 14 in the third quarter alone. Valanciunas would manage just five points, hitting 1-of-6 shots in the second half as the Magic locked down the paint.

This type of balanced offensive performance is how the Magic play their best basketball, and it was on full display on Friday against one of the league’s best teams. Orlando had four players score at least 18 points, as Serge Ibaka, Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Watson combined to suffocate the DeMar DeRozan-less Raptors.

Fournier, in his third game back from an eight-game absence, looked like his old self for the first time. The Frenchman scored 20 points, as well as netting a career-high 10 rebounds.

The Orlando Magic (20-32) will travel to Atlanta tonight to face the Hawks (29-21) on Saturday night. They will then head to Houston for their game against the Rockets (37-18) on Wednesday.