Orlando Magic’s first round win against Toronto Raptors looks better now

D.J. Augustin's game-winning shot against the Toronto Raptors will go down in Orlando Magic legend. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
D.J. Augustin's game-winning shot against the Toronto Raptors will go down in Orlando Magic legend. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

As the 2019 NBA Finals heats up, the Orlando Magic watch knowing they won just as many games as the Golden State Warriors have against the Toronto Raptors so far.

The Orlando Magic’s playoff win was just as dramatic as anything the Golden State Warriors have done in the NBA Finals so far but much more unexpected.

Although both wins were because of a role player’s three-point dagger, the Magic’s win was more impressive. Their game-winning shot came from someone who has never played in a NBA Finals and was doubted as a starter throughout his career and time with the Magic.

With the game tied at 101, there were about 10 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter, D.J. Augustin was patient with the ball, staring down the defense like a superstar like Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard might.

The middle of the floor was clear because all four of the Magic players were behind the 3-point line with a threat of making a big shot. Augustin was ultimately the guy the Toronto Raptors felt they could stop the most, especially after switching Danny Green onto him following a 19-point first half.

Most people thought D.J. Augustin would be the distributor in this scenario, not the hero that would help Orlando take a 1-0 series lead.

After Nikola Vucevic slid over to set the pick, D.J. Augustin caught Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol failing to switch and stop his line of sight at the rim. He rose at the top of key and fired a 3-point dagger to the hearts of all the fans at Jurassic Park.

It was a huge shot for the Magic.

It drew all eyes on to Central Florida and seeded some doubt in the Raptors. With one shot, all the Magic had to do was win their home games to dethrone the eventual Eastern Conference champion.

That didn’t happen. The Raptors used that loss to sharpen their focus and it was vital to their run to the NBA Finals.

But since that shot, a lot has happened. Not only did the Toronto Raptors complete the “gentleman’s sweep” of the Orlando Magic, they also disposed of the Philadelphia 76ers on the first buzzer beater in a Game 7 in NBA history and then dispatched of the league’s best team in the Milwaukee Bucks in six games.

But back then the shot felt different.

It felt like the Magic hit a dagger 3-point shot on the second best team in the East, not the best. It felt like the Magic, who split with the Raptors in the regular season, would give the Raptors plenty of problems with their length. It was a warning shot that Orlando was not a team to look past.

That was a great feeling. Now fans in Central Florida understand just how big it was.

Now that the Raptors are up 2-1 against the two-time defending champion Warriors that shocking buzzer beater feels slightly different.

Orlando finished the year as the seventh seed and faced a Toronto team that was clearly champing at the bit for a NBA title. No one really knew if they could reach that level then. But they have clearly proven otherwise.

That series, despite how much Toronto dominated the rest of it, showed flashes of who the Magic can become. In Games 1 and 3, Orlando went toe to toe with Toronto at almost every turn. The Magic were capable of playing at a higher playoff level.

Their inexperience probably kept them from doing more as the Raptors continually raised their game and the Magic struggled under the pressure and focus.

It feels as if Orlando is closer to its goal now. As if the team may have a chance to really compete for something as early as next year. The Magic have to have everyone healthy if they plan on contending for something special and continue to add new players and improve the roster where they can.

And, although injuries may be a legitimate excuse for the Warriors if the Raptors dethrone them, no one said that when the Magic had their future starting point guard and center on the bench in the first round due to injury.

Because, at the end of the day, it all comes down to who wins or loses.

How much Markelle Fultz and Mohamed Bamba would have contributed to the team is up for debate. They are still extremely young players learning their way through the league. They are both completely unproven.

But clearly, their stat line would not have been all zeroes. And that experience would have helped in their development. Even observing playoff preparations probably helped them understand the focus necessary to succeed at this stage.

But injuries are a part of the game and will always play a factor at the end of the postseason, these guys try to be their best but anything can happen.

Just like the Magic can compete next year, because who saw the Raptors making their run to the NBA Finals even with Leonard? Who saw the Bucks emerging as the best team in the league during the regular season? Some team always makes a surprising leap.

Now that Orlando has tasted the playoffs, their young players could be poised to continue this breakthrough.

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If the Raptors win the NBA Championship that shot Augustin made on their home court at Scotiabank Arena will define what type of team the Magic went up against toe-to-toe. A champion.