Magic Defense Shows Up Too Late (If At All) In Stunning Loss

A young team like Toronto surely could not come up with the big plays against a seasoned Orlando team with playoff experience cached from the last two years. Even while getting outhustled and outplayed throughout, it was Mickael Pietrus’ seventh 3-pointer that tied the game at 103.

Who knew that Sonny Weems would be the hero?

Sonny Weems, a guy who hit only two 3-pointers all of last season, took a pass from Jarrett Jack and nailed a three over an oncoming Dwight Howard to give the Raptors a 106-103 lead with 7.1 seconds left.

The Magic’s would-be hero, Mickael Pietrus, became something of a goat (Van Gundy put the blame on himself for putting Pietrus in that situation where Pietrus is somewhat uncomfortable). He was unable to get the ball in twice and ended up turning the ball over to Jose Calderon as the Raptors held on for a 110-106 win at Amway Center on Friday. It was a play that symbolized everything that went wrong for the Magic as the Raptors snapped a six-game losing streak and picked up their second win. After Wednesday night’s loss to Utah, a sense of dread is starting to creep in.

More than blowing the 18-point lead to a very good Jazz team, this game was a confusing and frustrating outing. The Magic really showed little effort defensively until the final six minutes. And by then Toronto had built enough confidence to hit difficult shots and outwork Orlando to a win.

Make no bones about it, the Raptors deserved to win this game. But the Magic shot themselves in the foot.

The defensive intensity was simply not there all night. The Raptors scored 59 points in the first half and had an offensive rating north of 120 points per 100 possessions. According to the Advanced Stats Calculator, the Magic had a defensive rating of 116.9 points per 100 possessions. As Stan Van Gundy pointed out in his press conference, the last four games Orlando has allowed its opponents to shoot near 50 percent.

That is a pattern. And a chilling one at that.

Tonight the Raptors shot 50 percent from the floor and 58.7 true shooting percentage. Every shooting number you could think of from Toronto was more than solid. Andrea Bargnani tore up the Magic in the first half, scoring 21 of his 27 points before halftime. DeMarr DeRozan had a career-high 26 points including going to the line 12 times, hitting 10 free throws.

Luckily for Orlando, its offense appeared to be working too. The Magic shot 52.7 percent, hit 12 of 24 3-points and had their way with the Raptors’ defense. If Orlando was facing a team better than Toronto, this game would have been over quickly. But as it was, the Magic hung around and had a good shot at winning even with struggles defensively.

Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson paced Orlando offensively picking apart the defense pretty easily. Howard scored 25 points and Nelson added 23 points, shooting nine for 15 from the floor. It was Mickael Pietrus, playing his first game in about a week and a half, who was the big offensive lift. He hit eight 3-pointers to score 24 points.

Those offensive numbers covered up some poor play all night. The Magic shot themselves in the foot all night, letting the effort on that end go to waste.

The Magic missed 13 free throws — 10 from Howard — and committed 16 turnovers. That enabled the young Raptors to get out on the run and turn this into a really hectic game. Orlando never really got settled defensively (not that they were doing much on that end anyway).

It was really Dwight Howard’s game that was puzzling. He got his numbers withthe 25 points, but only had eight rebounds — and only one after halftime. His five blocks again make it sound like he had a fantastic game inside, but they again hide some of the struggles Orlando has. The Magic’s defense begins and ends with Howard and tonight… it is hard to tell what to make of tonight.

Reggie Evans grabbed 12 rebounds and four offensive, using all the fouls he could to keep Howard at bay. He dominated until the fourth quarter when the Raptors sent him to the foul line, where he failed to convert. Howard’s 

Maybe the rebounding number is not something to go crazy over. He grabbed around 25 percent of the rebounds available to him and Toronto did not miss a whole lot of shots. But the Raptors neutralized him later in the game and the Magic did not respond until desperation finally lit a fire underneath this team.

Like Van Gundy said, you do not want to question anybody’s individual effort. But tonight it just seemed like everyone was sleepwalking through the game. Like they were waiting for the playoffs (in November?!) or not taking the opponent seriously. That is more of a serious problem than anything else.

The “ridiculousness” of Wednesday was one thing. But tonight was truly ridiculous. The Magic have a lot of questions to ask themselves and a lot of questions to answer throughout the season.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily