The Orlando Magic front office was adamant about making the playoffs, even if it meant an early exit. Erasing the stigma associated with the Magic’s lengthy playoff drought and giving their young core the experience of meaningful basketball was viewed as more valuable that a spot in the lottery.
Mission accomplished there.
But the Magic, down 3-1 to the Raptors, now face that early exit.
Few Magic fans were measuring the success of this season on the results of this series. Orlando exceeded expectations long ago and showed tangible progress in their rebuild. Making the playoffs was a bonus, winning games in the playoffs against the league’s second best team was an added bonus. A victory with their backs against the wall in enemy territory will only further validate the strides Orlando has made this season.
So, even with the odds against them, the Magic must make adjustments in Game 5, continue to fight, and hope to live to see another day.
"We have to fight until the end." pic.twitter.com/kso3bbcVJ9— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) April 22, 2019
The team has been fighting since late-January, when they were 11 games under .500 and orchestrated a turnaround that landed the Magic in the postseason for the first time since 2012. The Magic have continued to fight against Toronto. But the Raptors, in many ways, have forced the Magic to do so with their hands tied behind their backs, robbing them of the strengths they showed during their playoff push.
What needs to be done for Orlando to stay competitive against Toronto and give themselves a chance to extend the series to Orlando for Game 6 is quite simple (simple to write at least, not so simple to do against the suffocating defense of the Raptors): protect the ball and hit open shots.
Against a defense that has prevented Orlando from getting into any semblance of a rhythm offensively for the better part of four games, the Magic simply can not afford to give away possessions and miss quality looks when they get them.
The Magic’s pace has slowed from 98.7 possessions per game in the regular season to 94.4 in the playoffs, and their turnovers per game has jumped from 13.2 percent in the regular season to 15.3 in the playoffs. So they are getting fewer possessions, and still turning the ball over more frequently. Credit the Raptors and their quick hands for that.
The Magic’s shooting percentages speak for themselves: 38.9 percent from the field and 30.7 percent from three, including 5-for-35 on open threes when the closest defender is four to six feet away (0-for-13 in Game 4), and 31-for-75 (41 percent) on wide open looks when the closest defender is more than six feet away.
The Magic have two players in this series (in 9-man rotation) w/ a TS% of 60% or higher, two players with assist percentages 25% or higher, two players with an ORtg above 100, and two players shooting over 40% from “3”.— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) April 23, 2019
DJ & AG are the two guys in every one of those categories.
- Evan Fournier has been the biggest culprit in that category, hitting just 5 of 16 wide open threes in the series (31 percent), and overall shooting 25 percent from deep and 34.5 percent from the field.
- Terrence Ross was limited to just one field goal in Game 3, a three at the third quarter buzzer, and took just five shots in 31 minutes (the same amount that Jarell Martin took seven minutes).
- D.J. Augustin, since scoring 25 points and shooting 4 of 5 from three in Game 1, had scored 24 points and made just 2 of 8 three-point attempts in three games combined.
- Jonathan Isaac, scoreless in Game 4 while limited by foul trouble, is shooting 30 percent from the field in the series, including 3-for-17 from three.
- Aaron Gordon has been the lone bright spot for the Magic, shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 56.7 percent from three.
- Nikola Vucevic has been removed from this series by the Raptors, and the odds of that trend changing drastically after four games is unlikely.
To have any chance of winning Game 5, the Magic wings must have an efficient shooting night. If they do, perhaps the Raptors will be less willing to stuff the paint on Vooch and take gambles that force turnovers.
It’s all easier said than done against the Toronto Raptors, a top five offensive and defensive team. The Toronto starting five this series has produced an offensive rating of 125.2 and a defensive rating of 83.8 for an absurd net rating of 41.4 (the Magic starting five has produced a 94.4 offensive rating and 121.4 defensive rating for a -27.0 net rating).
Having suffered their fair share of playoff disappointments in recent years, the Raptors now hold a 3-1 series lead for the first time in franchise history and they will be fully motivated to close this series out as early as possible.
Only 11 teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 deficit. For the Magic, the focus can’t be on the need to win three games in a row. It’s about winning one and giving themselves a chance to return to Orlando and fight once more.
“We’re going to go to Toronto and obviously look for a win,” Gordon told reporters. “We’ve shown that we can win there before and that’s what we’re going to do. That’s the idea, go out there and fight, definitely fight, and potentially get back here. We get a win out there, then the series is up for grabs.”