That was the number of games that the Magic’s core of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, D.J. Augustin and Terrence Ross combined to miss all of last season.
It was unprecedented health for a team that was ill-equipped to compensate for a potential injury. This season, in the early going, the Magic haven’t been as fortunate. Jonathan Isaac missed the previous two games with a sprained ankle (freak injury that it was). Terrence Ross also missed a pair of games. And now, arguably the Magic’s two most important players could miss some time.
Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon both suffered sprained ankles during the second quarter of the Magic’s 113-97 loss to the Raptors. Gordon seemed to land awkwardly early in the second and left the game with 8:27 remaining, never to return. Vucevic appeared to roll his ankle after a attempting to block a shot with 5:29 to go. Vooch was unable to put weight on it and had to be helped to the locker room...
The Magic announced at halftime that both Gordon and Vucevic suffered sprained ankles and would not return. That diagnosis was a huge relief, particularly for Vucevic, who seemed like he may have suffered a much more severe injury. But sprained ankles, which seem to hang over this Magic team like a dark cloud, can linger and that could mean extended time missed for Vucevic and/or Gordon.
Prior to the injuries, the Magic got off to a strong start against the defending champs.
Although Vucevic was struggling with his shot, as has become customary against the Raptors, he was doing a good job of passing out of the double team and finding the open teammate. Vooch assisted on five of the Magic’s first seven baskets. Orlando shot very well early and got out to a quick lead, led by Jonathan Isaac, who returned after missing the last two games with a sprained ankle of his own. Isaac scored seven points in the first quarter, including an and-one dunk gave the Magic a 22-14 lead with 4:51 left.
It turned into a first quarter shootout between two of the league’s better defensive teams. Evan Fournier made his first three shots and had eight points in the quarter for the Magic, who shot 54 percent in the quarter, including 5-for-10 from three, But the Raptors, a team that thrives on the fastbreak, shot 65 percent despite the Magic forcing them to operate in the half-court offense and holding them scoreless on the break.
The Magic got sloppy in the closing seconds, allowing easy buckets to Terence Davis and Pascal Siakam (off a Mo Bamba turnover), evening the score at 32 after the first. It went downhill from there in more ways than one.
That was the start of a 13-0 Toronto run that gave the Raptors a 41-32 lead with 9:25 to go in the half. The Magic meanwhile made just one of their first 12 shots of the second quarter. The Raptors - who shot 55.8 percent in the half, led by Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis with 13 points each - maintained the lead for the remainder of the quarter, taking a 61-51 lead into the break. The Magic shot 36.5 percent in the half, making 6 of 17 attempts from three (35.3). Fournier had 12 points and Isaac added 11.
The Magic lingered for a little longer thanks to their defense, even pulling within five with 7:36 left in the third, but without their two leading scorers, couldn’t get any closer. Toronto, which dominated in the paint all night, led 79-68 after three.
The lead would grow to as many as 19 in the fourth.
VanVleet finished with 24 points to lead the Raptors, who shot 52.3 percent. Siakam had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Davis added 19 off the bench.
The Magic, now 0-5 on the road this season, dropped to 6-8. Fournier led the way with 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting. Isaac had 16 points, 13 rebounds (matching his career-best) and three blocks. Terrence Ross added 14 points and Markelle Fultz had 12 points and four assists. With the injury to Vucevic, Montreal naive Khem Birch was finally called upon (something that should have happened earlier with the alarming poor play of Mo Bamba this season). Birch had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 21 minutes.
While the Magic don’t seem to be having the good health they enjoyed last season, they have the depth to fill holes for short-term injuries. Vucevic is irreplaceable to the Magic on the offensive end given how much the ball runs through him, but Birch will protect the paint and can finish inside. Opportunity strikes for Bamba, who has seemed in need of a trip to the G-League but instead could get added responsibility with the Magic. Al-Farouq Aminu was signed as something of a safety net, giving the Magic added depth in the frontcourt behind Isaac and Gordon. Having already filled in for Isaac in the starting lineup, Aminu could now do the same for Gordon if necessary.
Vucevic is slated for an MRI on Thursday.
Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon each had X-rays on their right ankles and they came back negative, they said. Vucevic left the locker room in a walking boot and using a crutch. Gordon also was using a crutch.— Roy Parry (@osroyparry) November 21, 2019
It was already going to be a challenging four-game road-trip for the Magic. It could now be a whole lot more difficult.