No Wendell, no Fultz, no problem, right? Turns out that the answer to that question on Friday night was ‘yes’, the Magic accounting for a similarly depleted Raptors outfit by a final score of 103-97.
A pair of quick three-point makes gave the Magic the early lead, with Chuma Okeke and Franz Wagner both connecting from deep on clean looks. Orlando’s silky rookie forward maintained that scoring pop, racing to a personal tally of 7 points as he converted a pair of evasive forays to the rim. Okeke and Jalen Suggs were similarly energized in the opening quarter, getting into the paint, attacking loose ball opportunities, and even hooking up on a highlight alley-oop. This combination of contributions was enough for the Magic to weather a burst that featured a flurry of Raptors threes, the fast-paced quarter coming to a close with Orlando leading 27-23.
The offense dried up for the Magic to open the second, the team enduring six consecutive missed shots and almost three scoreless minutes as the Raptors tied proceedings back up. Cole Anthony and Admiral Schofield both helped to right Orlando’s ship with physical finishes at the hoop, while a general tightening of the defensive pressure contributed to a five-minute Toronto stretch that produced just one made field goal. Despite the game’s frenetic pace these scoring droughts were deflating the point totals, the Magic leading just 34-30 as the game wound towards the main break.
Fortunately, Orlando were the first to realign their radar, Gary Harris and Suggs combining on back-to-back sequences for a pair of long-range makes. A Mo Bamba three-point play extended the Magic’s advantage to double figures, a margin that Anthony briefly extended with his first three-pointer of the night. It eventually settled at 9 after the Raptors split a pair of late free throws, Orlando heading into the half-time break up 48-39.
The game continued to be a grind as the third opened, both teams struggling with their shot and finding it difficult to generate any clean looks. The two sides combined for just 10 points across the quarter’s first 5 minutes, the teams’ field goal percentages plummeting to near 30.0% as the misses piled up. The Magic used some hard-earned free throws to eke out a 6-0 run that momentarily pushed their lead to 14, but a Pascal Siakim inspired 7-0 burst sliced that in half and brought the Raptors back within 7.
Coming out of a timeout, Orlando found some success from the outside, first with a tough Okeke triple with the shot clock dwindling and then a Harris corner three created by some alert Suggs’ defense. A pair of soft offensive fouls against Suggs stifled the momentum some, however, although the Magic’s scrambling zone defense helped them to effectively hold serve. When the third quarter closed the visitors found themselves up by a dozen, leading 72-60 with one period left to play.
Some highlight plays by RJ Hampton helped the Magic maintain control across the opening minutes of the final frame. First he finished off a circus-like three-point play that extended Orlando’s advantage to 15. He followed that up with a monster block that snuffed a Toronto transition chance, preserving the team’s double-digit lead. He then calmly drilled a long three after Bamba hauled in an offensive rebound, putting the Magic back up by 13 and countering the Siakim show at the other end.
The lead continued to hover around that mark for the next few minutes, both teams dialing up the defensive pressure while also pushing the pace with the ball in hand. It made for an interesting matchup, although it was one that Toronto slowly claimed the ascendancy in. The Raptors’ aggressive full court press generated some turnovers while also chewing up Orlando’s shot clock, with a Scottie Barnes and-one sequence after one such turnover cutting the lead to 7.
However, back-to-back Bamba dunks effectively sealed the deal, re-establishing a double-digit advantage that Anthony then iced with the team’s final 4 points. When the siren sounded the Magic were up 103-97, a comprehensive team effort with seven players in double-figures helping to offset the side’s collective cold shooting (38.3%).
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: Jalen Suggs — the shooting numbers are an obvious eyesore, but it was Suggs who so often set the tone for the Magic. He was aggressive all game long, eventually racking up 13 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 stocks to go along with a team-best +13 on the night. Pleasingly, his only two miscues with the ball in hand were a pair of tough offensive fouls.
Second star: Chuma Okeke — 10 points, a career-best 11 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal doesn’t immediately stand out as an impressive showing, but Okeke was a fantastic connective player tonight for a Magic side that desperately needed it. He was so often simply in the right spot, either to facilitate ball movement, extend a possession, or dole out some meaningful defensive pressure.
Third star: Franz Wagner — played a well-rounded game, finishing with 11 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Peppered in a couple of brilliant offensive possessions, even as it seemed like the whistle wasn’t in his favor most of the night.
The Magic move now to 3-1 post All-Star break, a showdown in Memphis looming in just 24 hours time.