In the short term, they did, with Nikola Vucevic finally finding his footing in the series, scoring the next 14 points for the Magic to give them their first lead since the buzzer sounded at the end of game one. After the Magic took the lead at 61-60 with 5:38 remaining in the quarter, things quickly fell apart.
Toronto’s suffocating defense, and methodical offense once again took over, helping the Raptors to go on a 16-0 run to take firm control of the game.
Orlando’s chance to capitalize on a stretch of strong play was suddenly gone, and the game seemed all but over. Yet, as they have done countless times this season, the Magic fought and clawed their way back into the game, rallying in the final 7:31 to cut the Raptors game-high 17 point lead down three with under a minute to play.
On the following possession, Aaron Gordon, who held Kawhi Leonard to just 16 points on 5-19 shooting, forced the former finals MVP into a miss. As the ball ricocheted off the rim, it fell between two of Gordon’s teammates who were unable to secure the loose ball. Kyle Lowry corralled the rebound and got it to Leonard, who iced the game with a pair of free throws.
Once again, the Magic had failed to take the chance they had right in front of them and have a chance to win the game.
“Yeah, we missed some opportunities, gave some possessions away, something we didn’t want to do, but it happened again,” said Terrence Ross when asked if the game came down to his teams missed opportunities. “We still had a chance at the end, but gave one more away.”
The frustration in Ross’ voice was clear. He knew his team had a chance to go and steal one at home and take a 2-1 lead of their own, but were unable to make the plays that they needed to.
As was the case in Tuesday night’s lopsided loss in game two in Toronto, the Magic came out misfiring early on. They were unable to find any flow on offense, thanks in large part to the Raptors stifling defense, and aside from Jonathan Isaac, struggled to keep their men in front of them on defense, leading to clean looks for Toronto that let them jump out to a quick 10-0 lead.
Vucevic, who finished the night with 22 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, looked at his teams turnovers as a main thing that held them back.
“Obviously tonight I thought turnovers hurt us again,” he said. “We had too many of those. Just empty possessions for us, and against a team like them we can’t have that. I thought some of our looks were good, we had some good looks, we didn’t convert. It was mostly our turnovers that hurt us in the end.”
For the second game in a row the Magic struggled, especially early with turnovers. For the game they finished with 16, one off their 17 from the game two loss. On Friday night, they did a better job of limiting what the Raptors were able to do with those extra possessions — Toronto scored just 13 points off those Magic miscues — but losing that many possessions, against a team like the Raptors is not conducive for winning.
“I feel like we could’ve won the game,” said Vucevic. “We had a chance, especially at the end of the game, Kawhi misses the pull-up two and we don’t get that rebound. . . Even before they had two or three offensive rebounds, which you can’t have those at the end of the game in a close game like that. It definitely hurt us.
“We did a better job tonight on Kawhi, but they have a lot of other good players on their team. [Pascal] Siakam had a great game. But I think mainly our rebounding wasn’t where it needs to be. That hurt us a lot, gave them some second-chance points and then our turnovers.”
The rebounding issues late, and the turnovers aside, the Magic also failed to take advantage of a critical advantage they had in both the third and fourth quarters.
They were able to get Toronto in foul trouble, and had the chance to shoot free throws on even ensuing foul from roughly the mid-way point of both quarters. In the third, they were only able to muster two free throw attempts in that time span, and in the fourth, they only attempted four after getting in the bonus.
When offense isn’t coming easy, finding a way to draw contact, and get to the line is critical. The Magic simply were not able to do that, which just added yet another item to the things they could’ve done better.
The missed opportunities piled up, and ultimately cost the Magic a chance at a 2-1 series lead, and the chance to hold home court for the remainder of the series.
With game four looming on Sunday, the Magic will have to make some quick adjustments to be able to give themselves a chance to once again even the series up, and bring it back to Orlando for a game six next week. They’ll have to clean up the turnovers, and return to their strong rebounding ways that allowed them to finish the season 22-9 and surge into the playoffs.
Friday night will be marred with the missed opportunities, but the Magic will still have plenty of them come Sunday evening.