Orlando Magic Grades: Toronto Raptors 123, Orlando Magic 108

Fred VanVleet went wild on the Orlando Magic as they again failed to stay organized and keep up with the Toronto Raptors. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Fred VanVleet went wild on the Orlando Magic as they again failed to stay organized and keep up with the Toronto Raptors. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

123. 81. 108. 38. Final

Things started off innocently enough.

Evan Fournier got himself going with the freedom to work on the ball more and an aggressive mindset to get into the lane. He quickly scored 12 points and had the Orlando Magic up 10-0. The team played with energy and force and spirit. The exact way the Magic need to play.

This was not his night. The Magic had some offensive push but they were still not completely right.

Just as they did during their dark days before Steve Clifford arrived, once the ball started rolling against them, they devolved into forcing drives to the lane and getting trapped by the Toronto Raptors’ pressure defense.

And, oh yeah, the hot shooting from Fred VanVleet.

Fred VanVleet scored a Toronto Raptors-record 54 points as the Orlando Magic had no answers defensively and could not keep up themselves as their own mistakes cost them in the end.

VanVleet hit eight 3-pointers in the first half and 11 for the game. He scored a franchise-record 54 points in disturbingly easy fashion. He was driving freely through the lane and finishing at the rim against a Magic defense that was visibly growing more frustrated with each passing moment.

The Raptors turned a close game into a rout once again, running away for a 123-108 victory at the Amway Center on Tuesday.

The Magic could certainly claim they succumbed to a stellar night from a hot player. But that would be an excuse for mistakes the Magic made themselves throughout the game.

Orlando put itself in the bonus with seven minutes left in the third quarter, fouling Toronto excessively after coaches told the team to limit fouls at the halftime break. The Raptors made 23 of 25 from the line.

Toronto also took advantage of every mistake Orlando made. The Raptors forced 17 turnovers and scored 36 points off turnovers. Some of those were certainly because players were put in unfamiliar roles. Evan Fournier had more than a few as he tried to force some offense and movement.

But there were plenty more where the team misread traps or did not provide help as they tried to attack the paint recklessly. The Magic were not making the simple passes.

And worse still, they were struggling to communicate and get back. Toronto had 29 fast-break points. The Magic were simply slow to get back and at times seemed to give up or give in to frustration again.

Yes, VanVleet played a superb game. But the Magic took themselves out of this game with mistakes they easily could have prevented.

Orlando Magic. EVAN FOURNIER. B. . G/F

Evan Fournier certainly had a pep in his step in this one. He had the primary playmaking and scoring opportunities in the game, resembling the legendary “FIBA Fournier” play of his World Cup run. Especially early in the game, he was aggressively driving into the paint and playing under control, creating opportunities for him to score. This is how the Orlando Magic need Fournier to play.

He spent the rest of the game though struggling to get going. He turned the ball over six times and he ended up hitting only one of his five 3-pointers. What was looking like an efficient performance quickly dissipated as he as much as anyone was forcing the ball into tight spots and finding no outlet when he was surrounded.

Fournier scored 21 points and shot 7 for 15 from the floor. He hit six of his eight free throws as he continues to do a really good job getting to the foul line. But if he is going to be a bigger playmaker, the Magic need him to be under better control or help give him an outlet.

B. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

Like Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic bounced back from a pair of poor games and gave the Orlando Magic a really solid base to build from. He was able to hit from the outside effectively and did a better job attacking Aron Baynes off the dribble to get to the basket. Nikola Vucevic was able to get to his spots.

But like everything else, the Toronto Raptors started to tighten up defensively in the second half and they started to crowd him a lot more, forcing him to pass the ball and the Magic just were not efficient as a passing team this game. Nikola Vucevic got doubled anytime he paused and Kyle Lowry did a good job catching him on the blindside for a few turnovers and steals.

Teams are giving Vucevic no room to breathe. But he still has to find a way to be efficient and get his points. He scored 21 points on 9-for-19 shooting, adding 18 rebounds for good measure with four assists.

CHUMA OKEKE. A-. . F. Orlando Magic

Chuma Okeke stepped onto the Amway Center floor for the first time since Dec. 31 when he suffered a bone bruise and he really did not look too worse for the wear. Chuma Okeke hit his first four jumpers to score a career-high 10 points in the first half and for the game. He shot confidently and comfortably throughout the game. The Magic were not giving him a lot to do, but Okeke spread the floor effectively and gave the Magic a needed presence.

It was asking a lot of the rookie to step right in but the Magic are in a position where they need everyone on the roster to contribute something. They cannot afford to miss too much time. Chuma Okeke struggled some to defend Pascal Siakam, but he had plenty of moments where he held his own. If this is the base Okeke is going to grow from, then the Magic should be excited to see him look comfortable and in rhythm again.

COLE ANTHONY. B. . PG. Orlando Magic

One thing that appears to be happening now that the Orlando Magic are running short of point guard options is they are having no choice but to give Cole Anthony a little more responsibility ready or not. In this case, it was ready and not.

Cole Anthony did a really good job in this game increasing the team’s tempo and pace and trying to get them into the offense quicker. That was actually a huge boost to the team. Or at least it felt that way. Anthony was aggressive and did a good job attacking the basket. He found his rhythm especially early in the third quarter, finishing with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

But he made a lot of rookie mistakes too. He had four turnovers as this new playmaking responsibility led him into the same traps that the Raptors sprung on Fournier. And his lack of defensive awareness led to more than a few of Fred VanVleet’s 3-pointers. That certainly helped a good game become a historic one for the Raptors guard.

9th East. TORONTO RAPTORS. A-. . 9-12

The Toronto Raptors had a historic night in a lot of ways. Fred VanVleet set the franchise record with 54 points. He got wherever he wanted off the dribble. But it was all set up by the Toronto Raptors’ constant ability to get into the paint and push the tempo right back at the Orlando Magic as they tried desperately to get organized.

Kyle Lowry had a triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. That was a tone-setter for everyone as they just kept moving the ball until they inevitably found VanVleet open for three. Toronto made Orlando pay for every single mistake. Even the ones the Raptors did not, it was not for lack of trying or execution.

Next. 5 questions the Orlando Magic face in the second quarter of 2021. dark

The Magic are now 8-14 and 12th in the Eastern Conference. They return to action Friday against the Chicago Bulls at the Amway Center.