Magic makes Raptors disappear in sending Toronto to its seventh straight loss

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The Raptors haven’t won a game since March 3, the same night they lost starting centre Jakob Poeltl for what is likely the balance of the season after the team’s only legitimate big underwent surgery to repair his left pinky finger.

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No Poeltl, no Scottie Barnes (hand surgery), no RJ Barrett, whose family is mourning the death of Nathan Barrett, RJ’s younger brother, no bench, no reasonable chance to beat a decent team and one quickly realizes this season can’t end soon enough.

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No shock here, but the Raptors’ losing streak did not end Sunday night when the Orlando Magic took care of business with a 111-96 victory, to send Toronto to its seventh straight defeat.

The Raptors return for a mini two-game home stretch, beginning Wednesday when Sacramento comes to town. OKC and Canadian mega-star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander pay a visit Friday night.

In other words, two more losses loom.

Once again, it was hard to fault the Raptors’ work effort and compete level on Sunday.

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For those not paying much attention to the team’s plight, the current roster is simply not good. Even the previous makeup wasn’t that good, but it was clearly superior to what is being presently trotted out.

At halftime, they trailed the host Magic 52-47 but had some decent stretches.

One issue was a lack of three-point shooting as Toronto went 2-for-11.

Gary Trent Jr. lit it up in Friday night’s home loss to the Magic, but he was non-existent in the opening half Sunday in Orlando. It didn’t get much better in the second half as Trent finished the night by scoring 15 points after netting 31 two nights earlier.

The Magic began the third quarter by going on a 7-1 run, which would extend by two following Toronto’s second turnover of the period. Trent ended the run by drilling his first three-pointer, a clean look from the left wing with 8:27 remaining in the quarter.

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Immanuel Quickley produced a three-point play when he got fouled on a make before converting from the line.
Toronto then became too turnover-prone, made worse when Orlando began to make shots.

When Jalen Suggs nailed a three-pointer with 3:35 remaining following Toronto’s fourth turnover of the period, the Magic had built a 74-58 advantage.

A timeout was called by head coach Darko Rajakovic, a reset that seemed to settle the Raptors.

Jordan Nwora, for one, played with an aggressive edge by attacking the rim, emerging as the Raptors’ best player.

Nwora’s 18 points led the Raptors on this night, pretty much summarizing Toronto’s lack of offensive punch.

SOLID START

The Raptors went with what has become their regular starting group given the recent circumstances surrounding the team. At Orlando’s Kia Center, the unit held its own.

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Collectively, the team outrebounded the home side following the game’s opening 12 minutes when the Raptors, despite the obvious size disadvantage, attacked the rim and retrieved misses that led to second-chance points.

Orlando led by as many as 10 points in the opening period before the Raptors responded by going on a 7-0 run.

While the start was good, Toronto was not able to sustain its level, which is quite predictable given the very nature of the roster.

K.O. NO

Once again, Kelly Olynyk started at centre.

There’s a lot to like when it comes to his game and the impact Olynyk will have beyond this season when the Raptors, it is hoped, assembles a more complete roster.

The one area Olynyk can clean involves passing. There’s no doubt he’s among the best bigs, but he can’t leave his feet when attempting a pass, one of the game’s cardinal sins.

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Olynyk had three turnovers in the opening half, the most by any player heading into the break. The Raptors had nine in an opening half that would see the visitors make seven trips to the foul line

Overall, there’s not much to complain about as Olynyk’s veteran presence and basketball smarts are consistently showcased.

He’s even beginning to develop a better feel playing with Quickley, which is evident in the two-man game from the elbow area on the floor.

Olynyk did not turn the ball over in the second half.

MAGIC MOMENT

Orlando’s win, its second over the Raptors in three nights represented win No. 40 on the season, a first for the franchise since 2019.

When the Magic reached the 40-win total five years ago, it went on to meet the Raptors in the opening round of the playoffs.

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Orlando came into Toronto to upset the Raptors on a D.J. Augustin three-ball with 3.5 seconds left, but would promptly endure a gentleman’s sweep.

The 2019 Orlando team won 42 games during the regular season.a unit featuring the likes of Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and the now-retired Terrence Ross, to name a handful of players.

The current edition of the Magic is dotted with young, athletic and physical players who have a legitimate chance of growing together and evolving into a better side.

An upgrade at point guard will always be welcome as will additional shotmakers, who are always coveted in the NBA.

Not many expect the Magic to make much of a post-season run, but Orlando is nonetheless an emerging team, a description that does not apply to the Raptors.

For the record, the Magic is in contention for a home playoff berth as it remains in the hunt for the No. 4 seed in the East.

The problem is Orlando has built its record on the strength of beating bad teams, improving to 25-6 against opponents with sub-.500 records following Sunday’s win.

Orlando has not lost at home to a losing team this season.

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