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Raptors 121, Magic 109: Magic lost, but so did all the other teams in the playoff race

Orlando started well, but had no answers for the Raptors’ outside shooting, Still a half-game out of the eighth spot

NBA: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Magic lost. We’ll get that out of the way first.

But the Heat, Nets and Pistons also lost. So at least no ground was lost in the playoff push.

After the Magic’s fast start against the Raptors, though, it could also be said that the Magic squandered an opportunity to gain ground. But they simply had no answers for the Raptors’ hot shooting, or their physicality, as Toronto built a 24-point lead in a 121-109 win over the Magic.

Early on, the Magic effectively worked the ball into the paint and utilized the inside-out game that, when properly executed, makes them so efficient on the offensive end. They connected on 13 of their first 18 shots, including five of seven from long range, while building a 32-23 lead. Defensively, the Magic couldn’t contain Danny Green, who nearly doubled his 10.1 points per game average in the first quarter with 16 points, connecting on four three-pointers. With the Magic shooting nearly 63 percent in the quarter, they carried a 36-29 lead into the second.

Part of the reason the Magic have matched-up well against the Raptors this season is because of Orlando’s ability to frustrate their key players by putting Aaron Gordon on Kawhi Leonard and Jonathan Isaac on Pascal Siakim. Isaac had one of his most active defensive performances of the season in the first half, blocking shots, diving for loose balls, and limiting Siakim to three first half points on 1-for-6 shooting.

The Magic maintained their lead through the midpoint of the second quarter before the Raptors staged a run to build a double-digit lead of their own. After Nikola Vucevic’s three gave the Magic a 50-43 lead with 6:08 left in the half, Orlando wouldn’t score again until 31.2 seconds remained when Evan Fournier hit a floater. By that point, the Raptors went on a 14-0 run and led 57-52. Overall, the Raptors closed the half on a 19-2 run, outscoring the Magic 33-16 in the second, and led 62-52 heading into the break.

Steve Clifford’s halftime speech had no effect this time around, as the Magic struggled to find a way to combat the Raptors’ ball movement and perimeter shooting. Toronto scored the first six points of the third, extending the run to 25-2, to take a 68-52 lead. Three Danny Green triple’s later, with a few other buckets mixed in, the Magic trailed 81-61.

Through three quarters, the Raptors connected on 18 of 33 three-point attempts (54.5 percent), assisted on 26 of 32 baskets, and led 95-75.

The Magic’s end-of-the-bench reserves - led by Wes Iwundu, Jarell Martin and Amile Jefferson - staged a 13-2 run late in the fourth to trim the deficit to 114-106 with 1:45 remaining. The effort was very impressive, but it was too little too late for the Magic.

Green led all scorers with a season-high 29 points for the Raptors, who shot 49.4 percent, including 19 of 37 from three (50 percent). Leonard had 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Kyle Lowry had 12 points and seven assists. Siakim, again held quiet thanks to the handy work of Isaac, finished with six points on 2-for-9 shooting. Serge Obaka led the Raptors’ reserves with 15 points.

Fournier led the Magic with 21 points on 8 of 16 shooting. Vucevic added 13 points and 13 rebounds. Iwundu finished with a career-high 16 points on a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in 20 minutes. Khem Birch added 11 points for the Magic, who shot 46.7 percent from the field (12-for-33 from three, 37.5 percent).

Frustrating loss considering the opportunity that was in front of them after playing so well in the first quarter. Luckily, the Magic got some help across the scoreboard from opponents of teams in the playoff race. The Pistons lost to the Pacers, 111-102. The Heat lost to the Celtics, 110-105. And the Nets lost to the Bucks, 131-121.

So the Magic remain a half game behind the Heat for the eighth spot, a game behind the Nets for the seventh spot, and 1.5 games behind the Pistons for the sixth spot.

After finishing their four-game road trip at 2-2, the Magic now return home for two must-win games against the Knicks and Hawks. They then finish the season on the road in Boston and Charlotte.

The Heat close out the season against Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. The Nets finish against Toronto, Milwaukee, Indiana and Miami.

Hopefully there is at the very least a half-game in there somewhere that the Magic can make up.