Against high-end teams, even a momentary lull can prove to be the difference in the outcome of a contest.
Such was the case on Friday night. During a brief third-quarter stretch, the Cleveland Cavaliers went on a 14-2 run, which ultimately was too much for the Orlando Magic to overcome in a 107-96 road defeat.
Now, the Magic (5-18) will need to put forth a more complete effort on Saturday night if they hope to snap a seven-game losing streak when they visit the Toronto Raptors (11-11) at 8 p.m. ET on the second night of a back-to-back.
“We have to stay positive after (a loss like Friday),” said Magic center Moe Wagner, who got his first start of the season against the Cavs. “We found a way to come back. There were a lot of self-inflicted mistakes in that third quarter (and) in that first half as well. But I think the way we came back in that fourth quarter shows a lot about the chemistry and the characteristics of this team. It’s on us to carry that with us into the next couple weeks.”
It's tough enough for young teams in the NBA to avoid some of the pitfalls that have plagued the Magic over the last seven games. It’s even more difficult when playing shorthanded, having players come in and out of the lineup, and being forced to constantly alter lineup rotations.
Still, in spite of those factors, limited practice time, and a difficult schedule, Orlando was able to show signs of growth on Friday night. The Magic limited the Cavs on the offensive glass and kept the contest close down the stretch courtesy of 14-point fourth quarter from Franz Wagner, a 22-point night from rookie Paolo Banchero, and a 19-point effort from Cole Anthony.
“The resiliency that they showed (as well as) cleaning up the rebounding situation – holding them to five offensive rebounds when we’ve been talking about our rebounding situation,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “These guys did a better job of concentrating on those details of the game.”
A big part of Orlando’s focus on Saturday night will be limiting mistakes against a Toronto team that will undoubtably make you pay for any slip up. While the Raptors are not a high-end 3-point shooting team like the Cavaliers, they do their damage in transition and capitalizing on turnovers.
Toronto is first in the NBA in points off giveaways (22.0), tied for first in second chance points (17.7), first in fastbreak points (18.3), and have the league’s seventh-best defensive rating (110.6).
The Raptors offensive attack is led by Pascal Siakam, who’s averaging team highs in points (24.0), rebounds (9.0), and assists (6.8). O.G. Anunoby is having the best season of his young NBA career, averaging 18.8 points and 6.0 rebounds to go along with 2.3 steals per game – second most in the association.
IN AND OUT: Injury reports for both teams are not yet submitted. However, Mo Bamba (back spasms), Wendell Carter Jr. (right plantar fascia; strain), Gary Harris (right hamstring strain), Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness), and Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness) all missed Orlando’s contest in Cleveland on Friday.
For Toronto, Precious Achiuwa (right ankle sprain), Justin Champagnie (G League – On Assignment), Jeff Dowtin Jr. (G League – Two-Way), Ron Harper Jr. (G League – Two-Way), and Otto Porter Jr. (left foot; second toe; dislocation) were all out for its game against the Nets on Friday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Orlando, they have a lot of talent. A lot of talent over there, but they’re all pretty young. Toronto, they’ve been playing in a system. They’ve been playing with each other. This is Jamahl’s second year as a coach over there. You can see the system starting to build and guys having confidence in each other over there. But when you look at Toronto, those guys, some of them have won a (championship) together. I think (head coach Nick) Nurse has put in a whole system. When you have years upon years in a system, you seem just naturally farther ahead. But (the Magic) have the potential to continue if they keep everybody. They’ve got guys out like (Jonathan) Isaac, (Jalen) Suggs, and (others). They’ve got a bunch of guys out that can defend as well and have length and are athletic. So, they can get – I don’t know if they can get to a championship level, I think that’s really hard to do – but I do believe they’re building. You can see it year by year on a yearly basis. Guys are getting better. It’s great to see Markelle (Fultz) out there. He’s someone I’ve known for a really long time. I’m happy to see him healthy and doing that. When you have him as the one at (his size and wingspan) that’s tough.” – Cavs superstar Donovan Mitchell on comparing the Magic and the Raptors
HOW TO WATCH: Watch the game on Bally Sports Florida or tune in on radio via FM 96.9 The Game.