Well, it was bound to happen eventually. The previously undefeated Toronto Raptors came into the Amway Center in Orlando with the hopes of extending their best start to the season in franchise history to 6-0 but fell just short in the final quarter against a very defensive-minded Magic team with a full-time score of 92-87.
As fans have come to expect from the Raptors, Toronto came out of the gate stumbling in the first half thanks to a combination of some very poor shooting and the highly underrated rim protection of Magic center Dewayne Dedmon who was starting in the place of Nikola Vucevic who sat out nursing a bruised knee.
The Raptors were held to only 15 points on just over 17 percent field goal shooting in the first quarter, but despite this fact, Orlando was not quite able to capitalize on this poor performance and only led by six points going into the second.
Orlando can thank their newly instated head coach, Scott Skiles, who has instilled a culture of truculent defense and tenacity in the Magic organization. This new approach to the game was on full display Friday night as the team clogged the paint every time the Raptors tried to attack the basket and made their presence felt on defense in the half court. Foul trouble also played a role in the Raptors’ weak first half. Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry were hit with three and two fouls, respectively, in the opening twelve minutes and had to ride the bench for most of the first and second quarters.
Orlando faced their own troubles on offense, which at time looked stagnant but would come to life in bursts with some impressive jump shooting from third-year guard Victor Oladipo. At the half, the Magic led the Raptors, 45-36.
Toronto, the league leader in second half offense so far this season, shook off their first half woes and started the third quarter guns ablazing to erase Orlando’s lead and create one of their own. DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph played a huge role in Toronto’s third period resurgence and combined for 42 points by the end of the game, nearly half of the teams scoring, on 14 of 24 shooting.
Joseph, in particular, was a bright spot in an otherwise embarrassing bench performance from Toronto. While he shot 7 of 9 from the floor, the rest of the bench combined for a mere four points on 1 of 16 shooting from the field.
Jonas Valanciunas also had a strong third, grabbing 11 boards to set a new franchise record for rebounds in a quarter. At one point in the third where Toronto demolished the Orlando lead, coach Skiles demonstrated his no tolerance policy for porous defense and had a platoon change that took out all five players on the court and replaced them with an entirely different batch.
Things were neck and neck in the final minutes of the game with Orlando and Toronto trading baskets. With less than a minute remaining Toronto,who was down two points, brought the ball up court and had numerous chances in the same possession to grab the bucket they needed to equalize but were unable to capitalize.
After a forced shot by Valanciunas in the dying seconds of the shot clock, Orlando seized the rebound and Victor Oladipo sprinted up the middle only to be clear path fouled with 2.4 seconds remaining in the game, essentially sealing Orlando’s second win of the season and handing Toronto its first loss.
Tobias Harris led the Magic in scoring with 20 points on a brilliant 8 for 10 from the field. Toronto will look to rebound from this loss on Sunday when they travel to face the Heat in Miami.