Tim Szczerbowski/USA TODAY
The Magic will surely have nightmares of Kyle Lowry as they fly south from Toronto tonight.
His shooting and confidence — that could very well unseat Arron Afflalo from a spot on the All-Star team — were just oozing off of him throughout the night as he seemed to hit backbreaking three after backbreaking three or making critical play after critical play.
The worst part was that he did most of his work in a 33-point, 6-for-11 3-point shooting night early on. Add in 11 assists and a Raptors team that hit its first eight 3-pointers, including seven in the first quarter including five from Lowry himself, and the Magic had a hole that required strong defense and stronger offense to climb out of.
Orlando had neither in the end of a 98-83 loss to Toronto at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday. The closest the Magic could get was eight points early in the fourth quarter. But even with Toronto cooled off, the Magic could not do much more than cut a few points into the lead before Toronto rebuilt the lead and regained momentum.
Lowry was simply masterful throughout the early stages of the game, stepping into 3-pointers and making some really difficult shots. The confidence from Lowry spread throughout the team as the shots continued to fall for Toronto.
The Raptors shot only 42 percent from the floor however, so the hot shooting cooled off. Toronto relied heavily on its defense to secure what amounted to an easy win with little challenge from Orlando.
The Magic shot 33.3 percent from the floor and found little rhythm or little ways to get to the basket. Orlando's offense never really got into a good flow. It was hard to pinpoint where the Magic could go consistently for points.
Arron Afflalo had 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Victor Oladipo had 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting and Jameer Nelson scored 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting. Tobias Harris came off the bench for nine points and 11 rebounds on 2-for-8 shooting.
It was not a great offensive night for the Magic.
The best player for the Magic was undoubtedly Nikola Vucevic, playing his first game since suffering a concussion two weeks ago. It took him a while to find his rhythm and he was certainly a bit out of rhythm. But having him in the paint helped the Magic's interior defense (if not their ability to close out and contest threes enough to disrupt the Raptors' rhythm) and helped them on the glass and keep possessions alive on teh offensive boards.
Vucevic rolled out of bed and recorded a double double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds.
If only it were that easy for everyone.
It was clear that Vucevic was out of rhythm, and Jacque Vaughn was not going to play him too long. He recorded just 20:29 on the floor in this game.
So when he was out, the Magic struggled on the inside with Glen Davis at center and struggled to create much penetration into the paint or offensive fluidity. It was a frustrating offensive night that saw plenty of missed shots to go with the bad offensive ball movement too.
The Magic looked every bit the part of a 12-win team playing the third-best team in the Eastern Conference. And it should just be a relief to be headed home to see the Bucks.