The Magic traveled north for a Friday night contest against the Raptors, the showdown pitting Jalen Suggs against Scottie Barnes in a matchup of highly touted rookies. Neither disappointed in an exciting contest, Orlando falling agonizingly short in a game they almost stole at the buzzer.
The first quarter featured some really fun basketball, with the lottery pick rookies shining early. Barnes got Toronto’s first 7 of the night, scoring first on a pair of mid-range jumpers when the defender sagged, and then knocking down an opportunistic three-point attempt. Suggs, by comparison, made a slower start, failing to find the bottom of the net on his first two attempts and coughing up an ugly turnover when he lost his handle after driving into a dangerous situation. However, to the young guard’s credit he stayed locked in and was rewarded with a pair of threes and some solid looks off the back of his drive-and-kick game. With Mo Bamba and Cole Anthony also chipping in from deep the Magic soon found themselves up 7 during the early running.
Unfortunately, as has so often been the case already this season, much of the good work done by the starters was unraveled by the bench units. The Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. pairing were defensively strong during the game’s early stages, walling off the deep paint and cleaning the defensive glass effectively. Once they sat the Raptors were able to generate slightly cleaner looks and pounce on more second chance opportunities. The offense likewise dipped, with the RJ Hampton quarterbacked minutes coinciding with a loss of purpose and efficiency with the ball in hand. Toronto ultimately closed the quarter on a 9-0 run, claiming a slender 3 point lead at the first break.
The second looked to be following a similar script, before the quick return of Anthony and WCJ helped to right the ship for the Magic. The pair ultimately combined for 19 of Orlando’s next 26 points, helping the team match the Raptors’ basket for basket even as Toronto’s Barnes continued his mid range assault. Bamba’s strong first half continued with a corner three, and when Gary Harris chimed in with some nice decision making it looked like the Magic might have been able to steal the lead back at the main break. Instead they were caught for time, ultimately going into the half trailing by a bucket, 54-51.
The boxscore made for interesting reading at halftime. Despite trailing in the turnover count 10 to 2 and having earned just 4 free throw attempts compared to 10, the Magic were right in the thick of the contest. Hot outside shooting accounted for much of it — 8-17 (47.1%) from deep compared to Toronto’s ugly 3-17 (17.6%) mark — but the lopsided assist count was also a contributing factor. Orlando had 13 helpers compared to the 7 totaled by the Raptors, a differential which spoke to the frequently crisp ball movement facilitated by many in the Magic backcourt. In terms of leaders, Bamba had 12, 10 and 2, Anthony 11, 4 and 2, and WCJ 13 and 5 to make for a balance of contributions.
Mo Bamba (12 PTS, 10 REB) and the @OrlandoMagic are going back-and-forth with #WeTheNorth in the 1st half.— Bally Sports Florida: Magic (@BallyMagic) October 29, 2021
: Bally Sports Florida
: Bally Sports app!#MagicTogether #NBA pic.twitter.com/yGnprJQkMc
The third quarter played out much like a tug-of-war contest, with the two sides trading baskets and the lead over the course of the twelve minutes. Anthony continued to be the Magic’s engine, his poise and control with the ball in hand getting the team through their sets. However, it was a surge from Suggs and his rookie running mate, Franz Wagner, that was the story of the quarter. Despite an empty first half Wagner continued to move hard to the hoop, finally rewarded with some clean finishes and friendly whistles. Suggs, meanwhile, first drilled a huge three before then capitalizing on the extra defensive attention, hitting the jets and converting a decisive drive to the hoop. Throw in some timely buckets from Bamba and the veteran pair of Harris and Terrence Ross and it was ultimately a recipe for a one-point Magic lead as the teams headed to the final quarter, up 78-77
Orlando pushed their advantage to three on their first possession of the final frame, a pair of Suggs free throws further reward for his aggressive play on the night. Things almost immediately gummed up at that point, however, with some unlucky bounces exacerbated by loose ball security, untimely turnovers and inattentive defense ultimately helping to fuel a 13-0 Toronto run that swelled the deficit to double figures.
Consecutive triples from Harris and Anthony ensured the contest didn’t slip away entirely and when Franz Wagner finished a probing drive with a soft bank off glass the Magic found themselves down just 4 with a shade over six minutes left to play. Cole drilled his fifth three pointer of the game after sniffing out a mismatch against Khem Birch, but Toronto’s Barnes popped back up with his first bucket of the second half to keep the margin at 5. A Fred Van Vleet three point play followed by a dunk-gifting turnover from Suggs effectively sealed the result, although the Magic continued to battle to the final whistle.
A massive 4-point play from Suggs with 52.0 seconds still to play suggested a sniff, before a corner three from Franz gave the team a genuine chance. Huge defense from the Magic — first a smothering of OG Anunoby by Suggs and then a decisive rebound by Bamba — ensured they would have a shot at the buzzer. The play was drawn up for the red-hot Anthony, but unfortunately the ball was poked loose and his half-court heave gave him his first miss from deep for the night.
If you’re looking for an easy answer as to where this one was lost, it can be found in the following: Toronto took advantage of some loose defense on the perimeter, as well as opportunities in transition to rack up shooting figures of 13 of 19 in the fourth quarter (including 12 of their first 13), paced by Van Vleet’s 14 points in the frame on near-perfect accuracy. Ultimately, it was just enough to get them over the line, the game closing at 110-109 in their favor.
Orlando’s three stars
Hockey is a pretty great sport, so I thought I would steal one of its best little touches for my own game analysis: the three stars. Here is who caught my eye tonight.
First star: Cole Anthony — was Orlando’s best option all night long, feasting on any mismatch that presented itself and riding scorching long range shooting (5 of 6!) to a final personal tally of 24 points, 5 rebounds and5 assists.
Second star: Mo Bamba — slowed down in the second half but still racked up 14 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Most importantly, his defense in the first half was genuinely deterring and a huge reason the Magic stayed so close for so long.
Third star: Wendell Carter Jr. — he frequently feels like the forgotten man on offensive possessions at the moment, but he was thoroughly reliable on his way to an efficient double-double. Finished with 17 and 12 on 8 of 12 shooting (and only a single miss inside the arc!).
Tomorrow night brings another chance for the Magic to secure a W, this time against the Detroit Pistons who may just have Cade Cunnigham in the lineup.