The Magic needed a good fight against the Raptors when they announced Jameer Nelson would miss the game with a sore left hip approximately an hour before tip off. They needed to play better defense than they had the last few outings for sure, but the margin for error was much small.
Ducking under screens and letting Toronto get into rhythm was not part of the equation. Orlando kept pace for most of the first quarter, but a 17-2 run to end the first quarter would only foreshadow the difficult road ahead for the team.
Undermanned, struggling to find an offensive rhythm and struggling to stick to their defensive principles, the Magic fell behind by 15 to end the first quarter, gave up 10-for-14 shooting from beyond the arc in the first half to the Raptors and never threatened the Raptors' growing lead.
After the Raptors extended the lead to 11 points with less than a minute to play in the first quarter, they never led by fewer than 11 the rest of the way.
If that does not describe a beat down, then perhaps the final score will. Toronto Raptors 123, Orlando Magic 88.
The snowball started rolling down the hill and could not stop collecting snow as it got bigger and bigger and the lead became more and more insurmountable.
"The focus, you have to be focused defensively," Arron Afflalo said. "You can’t even be thinking about offense essentially. You have to take care of that possession and then transfer your mind to the offensive side. Trying to win the game offensively or thinking that we’re going to catch up by hitting shots, if you don’t get the stops it’s a wash. It just doesn’t help. You’ve got to get the stops and we jus didn’t do it tonight."
Without the ability to get stops consistently, Orlando seemed to dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole.
The Raptors shot 56.1 percent from the floor and cooled down, so to speak, in shooting 15 for 27 from beyond the arc. DeMar DeRozan led six players in double figures with 21 points. And Ed Davis, averaging 7.5 points per game entering Saturday's game, scored 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
Toronto just got the ball rolling and were playing with extreme confidence. Their players were into every shot and possession from the opening tip and took advantage of what the Magic's defense — and slow help side rotations — were giving them all night.
"Just a heck of a start for them," Jacque Vaughn said. "They just made shots. They got a lot of confidence going early and made it a tough uphill battle for us the rest of the night.
"They made shots early, which put us on our heels a little bit. Then we were trying to figure out whether it was a change in personnel or a change of coverages. They were able to make shots. Just one of those nights."
Jose Calderon had six of his 10 assists in the first quarter and the theme of sharing the ball continued as the Raptors recorded 33 assists on 46 field goals. That is not the kind of ball movement that usually leads to a let down or conceding one of those memorable comebacks.
The Magic tried changing coverages a little bit, switching on just about every screen. But the Raptors took advantage of those mismatches, that often found Ish Smith guarding a guy in the post. Orlando threw everything but the kitchen sink at Toronto, and even that did not work.
Orlando shot 44.4 percent from the floor and were making shots at a pretty consistent clip. The team just could not get over the hump and could not slow down Toronto enough to make any serious run. The mountain was too difficult to climb with so many key players out and too few guys were able to step up.
Ish Smith and Andrew Nicholson wre two of those guys able to step up for most of the night. Smith had a career high 13 points and dished out six assists, starting in Jameer Nelson's place. He struggled on defense some, but generaly did a good job trying to attack the basket and getting the Magic into their offense. Andrew Nicholson also scored a career-high with 22 points, 14 coming in the third quarter when Orlando made its closest run to get the lead down to 13 points. He added seven rebounds while doing some very nice work in the post with the ball.
Other than those two, the Magic struggled mightily on offense. Arron Afflalo scored 14 points, but was 5 for 14 from the floor and 1 for 6 from downtown. J.J. Redick scored nine points but missed 10 of his 12 field goal attempts.
Again, not numbers that will lead to any type of comeback.
Orlando had only 18 assists on 36 made field goals and the ball was not moving as crisply as it needed to for the team to have a chance. The Magic further shot themselves in the foot by making 11 of 22 free throws in the game, squandering just the sixth time in 30 games that the Magic have attempted 20 or more free throws.
"Just collectively, we just collapsed a little bit," Andrew Nicholson said. It happens time-to-time when you compete.
"[Jacque Vaughn] said it’s going to be one of those games. It’s going to be scrappy and you just got to come out there and put your hard hats on, give it your best and collectively stay together."
The desperation became much more palpable in the fourth quarter with Orlando's best run behind it and 12 more minutes to desperately make a game of things. The Raptors though were ready and continued to be the aggressors, blowing the game wide open and outscoring the Magic 36-17 in the final 12 minutes.
One of those nights turned into one of THOSE nights and the rout was on.
Not even Hedo Turkoglu's return — seemingly just a footnote after the beatdown his team received — would make the night feel warm. Orlando had lost three consecutive games to the 7-23 Hornets, the 4-24 Wizards and the 11-20 Raptors. The next three games are at home against the 20-7 Heat, the 16-12 Bulls and the 21-9 Knicks.
"We’ve got to fight through it and stay with it," Afflalo said. "Obviously it’s a tough stretch for us to come back from the short little Christmas break and lose five in a row. We’ve just got to keep fighting and keep plugging away. The schedule is obviously not going to get any easier.
"We’ve got to do our best to get back to the basic of our defensive principles to give us some type of stability within the game and on offense figure out a rhythm."