In Game 2, the Orlando Magic will look to do something they’ve never done in team history: win the first two games of a playoff series on the road.
Doing so, however, will not be easy.
The Toronto Raptors, with postseason disappointment in their past and an uncertain summer in their future, will be playing as if the fate of their organization depends on it. The Magic though, having suffered through many dark springs this decade, enter the game with soaring confidence after their thrilling last-second win in Game 1.
Few outside of Orlando believed in the Magic entering the series, and many have tried discrediting their win in the opener, including this embarrassingly inaccurate take by a Toronto television analyst…
The same analyst on "Overdrive" said of @OrlandoMagic : "They played about as perfectly a game as they could have." Also, this: "Nick Nurse won't make the same rookie coaching mistakes again ... Kawhi will play more than 33 minutes ... & Kyle Lowry won't score 0 points again."— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) April 15, 2019
News flash for the analysts in Toronto: the Magic played far from perfect, and they still won the game.
Yes, maybe it’s true that Kyle Lowry won’t go scoreless again, the Magic won’t shoot 48 percent from three again, Kawhi Leonard won’t play just 33 minutes again, D.J Augustin won’t resemble Allen Iverson again, the Raptors won’t be held to nine free throws again, and Michael Carter-Williams won’t hit crucial threes again.
But while pointing out all that went right for Orlando in Game 1, few acknowledge what went wrong.
The Magic shot 36 percent on their two-point attempts, and had their big three of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross combine to shoot 8-for-35. That those things happened in Game 1 and the Magic still won should be at least some cause for concern for an already anxious Toronto fanbase.
Aiding in the Magic’s Game 1 win, as Garrett Townsend pointed out, was their advantage from the three-point line (where they shot 14-for-29), the free throw line (20 attempts to Toronto’s 14), and the boards (corralling long rebounds and limiting the Raptors to six offensive boards).
The key to Orlando stealing yet another victory north of the border will be getting Vucevic involved early in Game 2. The Magic likely won’t be able to survive another 11-point, 3-for-14 shooting performance from their All-Star. In what was his worst shooting performance of the season (21.4 percent), Vucecic took contested shots and clearly rushed other attempts while going body-to-body with Marc Gasol.
Orlando must get the ball to Vucevic in the paint in what Steve Clifford called “advantage situations” that will better help him operate around Gasol and establish his inside game, giving Orlando the 20-plus points a game they have relied on all season. If Vooch can overcome the Raptors’ physicality, produce inside, and draw the defense in, it will also open the floor and create quality looks for Orlando’s perimeter players, just as it did late in Game 1 when Vooch found Gordon and Jonathan Isaac for critical open threes.
Vucevic, the day after Game 1, said he expects to more aggressive in his attack on Gasol.
“It’s just on me figuring ways out to be more effective offensively,’’ Vucevic told reporters. “That first game is kind of a way to get a feel for it and see how they are going to defend me. I expected them to make it really hard for me and now it’s up to me to figure it out.’’
Ross, who ended the regular season having scored 23 or more points in four straight games, shot just 2-for-11 in Game 1 against his former team. The Raptors, who held Ross to 37.1 percent shooting in four games this regular season, did a good job contesting Ross, who made just 1 of 5 attempts from three. When Ross first checks in in Game 2, expect Clifford to run some immediate plays for him off screens and curls to create some space and get Ross ignited early.
Also looking for his shot early on will be Lowry, who went 0-for-7 in Game 1 and quickly became the subject of many hilarious tweets.
Guys what the difference between Kyle Lowry and a Toothpick?— PlayoffTatum (@DukeTatum17) April 14, 2019
The toothpick has 2 points
Still, Lowry made his presence felt in other ways, and Clifford fully expects the open shots that Lowry missed in Game 1 to start falling.
“He didn’t make any shots, but when you have the time to just sit and watch, he played a very, very good game. His impact on the game was terrific for them.”
Unlike Lowry, Pascal Siakam had many more points than a toothpick in Game 1. He scored 24 on 12-for-24 shooting, this after averaging just 8.8 points on 34.2 percent shooting against Orlando during the regular season, by far his lowest output against any opponent this season. When Siakam manages to get by Jonathan Isaac, the help defense must be better at the rim.
Leonard will get more minutes in Game 2 (33 minutes in Game 1), but so will Gordon (34 minutes), who will be by his side all night.
If the Magic can somehow put everything together and steal another win in Toronto, they will take a 2-0 series lead back to Orlando, where they have won nine straight games.