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Defense is a no-show, Magic lose 131-112

Defense was optional Monday night, especially for the Magic

NBA: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The encouraging part of the Magic’s small ball experiment is the small uptick in the offense, which has eluded them all season. Scoring would not be an issue for the Magic on Monday, but the defense was as poor as it’s been all season, leading to the 131-112 blowout in Toronto. Elfrid Payton led the Magic with 22 points and 9 assists, while Nikola Vucevic had a 12-15 double-double. DeMar DeRozan dropped a massive 36 points on Orlando, while Terrence Ross and Serge Ibaka scored 17 and 16 points respectively against their former teams.

The first quarter was exciting, but also dangerous. Both teams scored at will, both shooting over 60%, and both hitting 2-3 from deep. The big difference was that the Magic spread out their points among several players, but the Raptors leaned on DeRozan’s 18 points. Terrence Ross was feeling it early, hitting his first three shots, finishing with 9 in the quarter. The game was nearly deadlocked after those fast-paced 12 minutes, with the Magic narrowly trailing 35-34.

The problem a few times this season is that the Magic have gotten into shootouts that they inevitably can’t maintain, and that was very much the case in the second quarter, when Toronto’s offense kept up its torrential pace while the Magic’s came back to Earth. Norman Powell hit three 3-pointers in the second on the way to 11 points, setting the tone for the Raptors’ hot jump shooting throughout the rest of the night. When they weren’t hitting those long-range shots, they got to the line 14 times in the quarter. Put it all together, and the Magic were staring at a blowout at halftime, 73-57.

The Magic wouldn’t go away, however. Thanks to some continued hot shooting from Evan Fournier and Ross, and using the only consistent stops the Magic got all night, the Magic were able to cut a massive 19-point deficit down to 5 in the closing seconds of the third. Orlando wasn’t able to connect on many 3-pointers, but they made up for it by attacking the paint, especially off the Raptors’ 7 turnovers in the quarter. The Magic looked like they’d go into the fourth with a close game, but DeRozan hit yet another jumper on what should have been the Raps’ last possession. Bismack Biyombo threw a poorly-chosen inbounds pass straight into the hands of Delon Wright, who calmly sank a 3-pointer. That swing from a 5-to-10 point deficit would be too much for the Magic to overcome.

Unfortunately, the defense went right back to “terrible” in the fourth, as the bench continued to be helpless against the Raptors’ outstanding reserves. The Magic took a few bad-beat calls when DeRozan probably should have been called for a foul, then got a friendly whistle on what appeared to be a clean strip by Ross. They almost had a chance at a 4-point play when Hezonja hit a 3 while Biyombo was bowled over setting a screen, but the refs (correctly) ruled the foul came before a shot. Still, those bad-luck calls were hardly the difference, especially when the Magic failed to contest several important jumpers down the stretch that allowed the Raptors to put the game away for good.