Magic shoot lights out in Toronto


The offensive onslaught began almost immediately.

Jameer Nelson drove to the middle of the floor and hit a mid-range jumper. Later he would easily find his way to the basket and score again. Then Ryan Anderson would drain a 3-pointer. Then another. Then another.

Dwight Howard did his thing too. And the Raptors had no answer. None.

The biggest cheer of the night came when the Raptors scored their 100th point on a desperation last possession, entitling everyone in the arena to a slice of pizza. Just a slice. Stan Van Gundy did not seem to amused when he discovered it was for one single slice. But at least, he had a smile on his face. A rare occasion.

The Magic were not so concerned with the final score. That had seemingly already been settled long before that moment behind 54.3 percent shooting and 15 3-pointers. The Raptors had no defense. They could not get out of their own way for most of the game and the Magic just steamrolled past them for a 117-101 victory at Air Canada Centre on Monday.

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Anderson hit 8 of his 13 3-pointers and scored 28 points. Jameer Nelson added 18 points and seven assists, running the pick and roll against the undermanned and overwhelmed Raptors defense.

It was game over fairly quickly as the Magic jumped out to a 16-point first quarter lead — only to see it cut to two points by the end of the quarter. Still, even with that, it felt like a matter of time before Orlando would blow the doors open.

That is, provided the Magic could win the turnover battle.

That they did, finally protecting the ball and taking advantage of the Raptors’ mistakes. The Raptors had most of their 12 turnovers in two tell-tale stretches in the first and third quarters as the Magic exerted their will and pulled away. Toronto could not stop Orlando when Orlando had the ball. And that was all the Magic needed.

Defense was seemingly optional most of the night as the team focused on taking away Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon on the pick and roll, often leaving Aaron Gray, James Johnson or Gary Forbes to carry the offense. They were game and had good outings statistically, but nowhere near enough with Orlando shooting the lights out and getting the ball moving so crisply.

Orlando had 93 points through three quarters. There just was no stopping the Magic tonight. Not with the team moving the ball and even getting out on the break. There was just nothing the Raptors could do or want to do to slow the team down all night.

If you are looking for more evidence that the Magic are beginning to round into shape, you only have to look at the way the team approached their second big lead of this game. They just methodically tore the Raptors apart, opening a 20-point lead by the end of the third quarter and not giving another inch.

Once the lead was expanded back out in the second and third quarters, Toronto never got another sniff. Yes, the Magic were not perfect all night. The defense was better, but not suffocating and not all-destroying like some of the top defensive teams. But Orlando continues to play better and better. Not perfect by any means. Not yet.

This was another business as usual game. One that the Magic have wanted to have come more consistently for a long time this season. The pieces seem finally to be falling into place.

Again, this was another team that will not be in the Playoffs. But you have to take care of these teams. You can’t ignore these wins, even if they are extremely ho-hum and workmanlike.

Wins are wins. The Magic continue to play better. Now they seem ready for a challenge with the Knicks and Mavericks ahead on the schedule. Now the real challenges begin as the Magic begin to eye the postseason.