Magic Fall to Raptors in Potential First Round Playoff Series Preview

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

In case they forgot with it being over eight months since they last played the Toronto Raptors, the Orlando Magic were reminded on Wednesday night at Walt Disney World just how good the defending champs are – even after losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency last summer. The Magic scored just 35 points before halftime, a season low in a first half, as they struggled to get into a rhythm against Toronto’s No. 2 ranked defense for most of their 109-99 loss.

The Top Storyline

The Magic want to be the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. That would insinuate they played well enough in the seeding games to eclipse the Brooklyn Nets, who were a half-game ahead of Orlando when the season shut down. If they indeed do end up in the seventh spot, that would likely result in a first round playoff series rematch between them and the Raptors, who will almost certainly be the No. 2 seed. As they rediscovered during Wednesday’s loss, Toronto hasn’t regressed like most thought it would this season after Leonard and Green departed. Finding ways to crack the Raptors’ stingy defense will be necessary for the Magic to be competitive in a seven-game series should they meet up later this month. Toronto eliminated Orlando in five games in the first round of the postseason last year.

The Top Performers

Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said repeatedly before restarting their season that the bench would have to play well for them to have success at Disney. Even though it came in a loss, both Wes Iwundu and Gary Clark were effective in their combined 31 minutes on the floor. Iwundu, now in his third season with the Magic, scored 11 points, while Clark, picked up by Orlando in January after he was waived by Houston, had 10. Each knocked down a pair of 3-pointers.

The Sidebar

Aaron Gordon landed awkwardly when he was fouled by Kyle Lowry early in the third quarter, causing his hamstring to tighten up. The refs determined the foul was a Flagrant 1. Although he was able to shoot his two free throws and play one more offensive possession, in which he scored on a drive to the basket, Gordon left the game shortly after. Orlando was already without Jonathan Isaac (torn ACL) and Michael Carter-Williams (left foot strain).

The Best Stretches

The Magic opened the second half with nine unanswered points. James Ennis III made two shots during that run, while Nikola Vucevic and Gordon each buried one. Later in the second half, Orlando pulled within as close as seven twice after trailing by as much as 24 earlier in the game. Clark sank a triple to start the fourth to make it 78-71 and Markelle Fultz had an AND-1 a few minutes later to make it 83-76.

Quote of the Night

“For me, I’m always ready to help the team any way I can. So, I just see it as another opportunity. We’ve been in this position before. We just have to come together as a team and try to put something together and get some wins.” – Iwundu on team overcoming being shorthanded

Up Next

The Magic will look to snap their two-game skid when they take on the 76ers on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Philadelphia defeated Washington earlier on Wednesday. Joel Embiid erupted for 30 points and former Magic player Tobias Harris scored 17. Ben Simmons left the game early with a left knee injury. Orlando beat Philly in its two first meetings this season. Both of those games were at Amway Center.

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