The second night of a road back-to-back always promised to be a difficult affair for an under-strength Magic outfit – particularly factoring in the added hassle of a trip to Toronto. Sure enough that turned out to be the case, a slow start and a disastrous stretch to begin the third quarter consigning the team to an eighth straight loss.
Toronto opened the game hot, hitting 8 of their first 9 from the floor and being aided by 3 early Magic turnovers that gifted them half-a-dozen points. Orlando, by comparison, struggled to generate any sort of clean look, the Raptors’ stifling length across the court shrinking the available space and challenging any exploratory dribbles. Eventually Paolo Banchero and Bol Bol were able to get the scoreboard ticking over, their length and footwork creating individual chances.
Bol’s shot-making – three straight driving finishes – helped the Magic trim a Toronto lead that had ballooned to twelve, reducing the margin to 27-20 with 3:16 remaining in the first. However, from there the team went scoreless until the final possession of the quarter, missing six straight shots and committing their fourth turnover on the night during the sequence. It allowed the Raptors to patiently piece together a 9-2 run that put them up 36-22 at the first break.
Toronto continued their assault on the painted area in the second, driving hard into any space that presented itself and consistently pushing the pace in transition. They turned this into three early finishes at the hoop to go along with five free–throw attempts, maintaining a comfortable double-digit advantage even as the Magic started to get some offense from the backcourt pairing of Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony. Bol continued to create some moments – blocking a three, drawing contact, and flushing home a nasty coast-to-coast sequence – but the team’s turnover count (4 more in the period, 8 in the half) and cold shooting from deep (3-14) ensured that no inroads were made on the scoreboard. Instead Orlando simply kept pace, trailing 64-48 at the half
Bol’s 11 points on 5-5 shooting from the floor led the Magic, with primary support coming from Banchero (8 points and 3 assists) and Cole Anthony (8 points and 3 assists). However, it was the defensive end of the court that was proving incredibly troublesome, with Orlando allowing the Raptors to shoot 58.5% from the floor. It was a mark powered by an alarming 19-26 rate from inside the three-point line (73.1%), a reflection of the Magic’s poor physical presence and defensive intensity. Factoring in Orlando’s disadvantage from both deep (9 points to Toronto’s 15) and the charity stripe (7 points to Toronto’s 11) would suggest that the deficit being only 16 was a minor miracle.
Despite the colder northern climes, the Central Floridian tradition of third quarter disasters once again emerged from the Magic’s half-time huddle. Some incredibly sloppy possessions allowed the Raptors to power out a 10-2 run across the first two-and-a-half minutes of the period, extending the deficit beyond 20 and erasing any semblance of competitiveness that still remained. Some promising individual flashes were evident – Bol snuffing out a transition dunk attempt; Anthony doling out some dimes; Terrence Ross heating up – but they weren’t enough to wrest momentum back in the Magic’s favor. Even a 10-0 spurt to end the quarter lacked significant punch, the team still an immense way behind at 94-73 heading into the fourth.
The sting was well and truly out of it in the final frame, the two teams largely trading chances as they went through the motions. A trio of triples from Terrence Ross and Caleb Houstan allowed Orlando to put a dent in the scoreboard deficit, but even with the flurry of buckets the Magic weren’t able to seriously threaten Toronto. Orlando claimed the quarter 35-27, but it didn’t matter much as they ultimately still went down by a margin of 13, the Raptors running out winners 121-108.
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: Terrence Ross — 18 points on 7-7 shooting, including four makes from deep for the veteran shooter. The Human Torch and his outside shooting threat probably needs to be inserted back into the starting lineup, right?
Second star: Cole Anthony — 12 points and 5 assists off the bench for the recently returned point guard, as well as a comfortably positive plus/minus in a game Orlando were walloped in. Most importantly, he was basically the only Magic player able to create a handful of opportunities for teammates, protecting the ball along the way (zero turnovers).
Third star: Bol Bol — his boxscore contributions of 18 points (7-8 shooting), 7 rebounds and 2 stocks stand out upon perusal, but it’s impossible to rank him any higher than here. His 5 turnovers were problematic, while he was also roasted pretty regularly in defensive matchups and on the glass. The highlight reel plays are impressive, but there’s still some way to go for the young forward.
The Magic now head back to Orlando to kick-off a five-game homestand, Giannis and the Bucks of Milwaukee up first on Monday night. It goes without saying, but they’ll need to be better than they were tonight.