Not surprisingly no Amir Johnson tonight. Andrea Bargnani ? You kidding right? Nope he isn't playing either. Solomon Alabi is active and if he plays tonight the Raptors or Magic, more likely the Magic, will be up by about 20 points or more. Dwight Howard is playing and still for Orlando with 10 days to the trade deadline. Hedo Turkoglu returns to the scene of the crime as well. But no one put a gun to Colangelo's head when he signed him that we are aware of. You often wonder how things might be different if Hedo had not screwed over Portland (Or So we thought) and signed there as he apparently had agreed to do and than changed his mind. That is water under the bridge of failure now. Magic should have little trouble dusting off the Raptors as they did on New Year's Day to start 2012.
Dwight Howard starts it off with a pretty move in the paint making Aaron Gray frozen or so it appeared. Ed Davis would score on a put back and Raps would get another basket, before a Nelson three pointer would make it 5-4. Raptors were doing a good job hanging around early and in fact nosed out to a 12-9 lead on an Ed Davis bucket taking it at Dwight Howard. Magic would tie it at 12 then the crowd would enjoy a pretty stupid pass by Hedo Turkoglu that would go out of bounds. Ball Control was a problem for the Magic and that is a good joke but it was also the truth with a lot of unforced turnovers. You got the feeling Dwight Howard could score as many as he wanted, but the Magic were more content to take shots. It was tied at 17 on James Johnson open 3. Big Baby with a nice big to bigger pass to Dwight Howard. Then we had a J.J three ball and the Magic were up 22-18. Magic would lead 23-20 after one and Superman had 10 points and 7 rebounds and I honestly think he could have had more than that if Magic wanted him too.
Magic got a basket from Ryan Anderson in the paint using some nice old school pump fakes. Raptors would respond with a break and a nice drop off from Calderon for DeRozan to get the easy lay-up. Magic were starting to assert themselves a little taking a 32-26 lead in the early going of the 2nd. Magic got it to an 8 point lead, but Demar DeRozan unafraid to take it to the paint made a couple nice baskets attacking the hoop making it 36-32. Howard got another easy score in the lane but Demar would get back in the paint too with a nice spin and score back to a 4 point point ball game. Raptors gave a good effort but were still as Jack Armstrong says, stuck five at halftime trailing 43-38.
Aaron Gray with a rare two for two effort at the line is what opens up the scoring in the 2nd half. Magic would get a couple baskets to answer that and it was 47-40 Magic. Raptors looked pretty disorganized on offense. Jose Calderon was 1-7 and you could add a turnover to that but the Magic would return the favour as they led 49-42. But the Raptors would get on a nice 6-0 run before a time out was called and it was a one point game. Raptors would take the lead on Barbosa three pointer to lead 51-49. Magic out a time out get an easy score and tie the game at 51. Dwight Howard soon after picks up his 3rd foul. It was a back and forth affair as Big Baby hits a jumper to give the Magic a 58-55 lead with just over 3 to play. Dwight Howard got the basket and made a free throw as he was fouled and the score grew to 61-55. A big dunk by Dwight Howard caused the crows to gasp and it was a sweet finish. Magic had been the dominant team all night when they wanted to be but still only had a 68-63 lead after 3.
Raptors were not going away and were in this game for one simple word and it is effort. They had it and the Magic only had it when they decided to have it. James Johnson swatted Big Baby and it lead to Jerryd Bayless being fouled in transition he made both and it was a one point game again. Ryan Anderson with a hugely needed three pointer for the Magic. Bayless with an ill advised chuck at three to answer. Anderson a basket and foul which he makes the and 1. Bayless decided to shoot another 3.....No what are you doing? I meant to say nice shot as he makes it. Raptors after falling behind seven get another basket and again were knocking on the door down just two.
Magic again decided to bring it and Dwight Howard made a great move that 3 years ago was not in his tool box in the paint. However Demar DeRozan who didn't have a 3 in his tool box does have one on occasion now and he used it to get the Raptors to within 2. Magic would push back to 5 up but a Bayless three would make it 80-78. But a silly foul by Jaamal Magloire and Magic got the lead back up to 83-78 with just over 4 to play. Magic started to pull away and had a 87-78 lead with 2:58 to play. But the Raptors would keep coming as they had all night long. DeRozan got a bucket to cut the lead to 4. Some questionable calls along the way were getting the fans and Jack Armstrong upset. But the foul on Calderon actually helped the Raptors as it turned out as Howard missed both at the line keeping the score at 87-83 Magic. Raptors had a chance at an easy hoop in the paint and could not make it and that would look to be costly with just a minute to play. Another foul on Calderon for getting run over by Dwight Howard and he again missed both but Magic got the rebound and still could not score. Bayless was fouled by Hedo and sent him to the line with 31.8 to play. He makes both and again it was a 2 point game. But a dagger 3 by J.J Redick would look to be the death blow giving the Magic a 5 point lead with 9.7 seconds to play. But Magic allow the Raptors to get an open Calderon three that he nail....Like Really? Magic now only up 2 again with 6.3 seconds left. J.J Redick gets fouled and that is last guy you want to foul with 95% on season but on the night was 2-4. Made both like he did back in the days at Duke and that would do it. Magic take it 92-88.
This is the part where you say the Raptors fought hard and deserved a better fate. But everyone else will do enough of that. I will say that it was a great effort but it was still a case of team that can not find a way to get over that hump in close games. I will also be the guy that will point out if you had Andrea Bargnani playing you might win some of these games. The fact he remains out with a calf injury seems odd even if it is the 2nd time he injured it. I hope it is because the Raptors are just trying to keep him out to play it safe in a season that doesn't mean much. If it is not that this really does not speak well to his ability to recover from injuries and is a concern as you go forward. But the Raptors are giving a tremendous amount of effort on defense and in general and you have to give credit to Dwane Casey for that. It is night and day from the efforts we saw under Jay Triano.