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Orlando’s defense shines as Toronto’s Game 1 jinx continues

Despite a different head coach and a new superstar, it was the same old story for the Toronto Raptors as their postseason began with yet another Game 1 loss. Seizing their moment, the Orlando Magic grabbed a 104-101 victory, leaving familiar questions in the air for their higher seeded opponents, who are now 2-14 all-time in the first game of playoff series.

D.J. Augustin hit the game-winning three-pointer and finished with 25 points, trumping Kawhi Leonard (25 points) and Pascal Siakam (24 points).

The Magic’s top tier defense successfully walled off the paint and the Raptors (33% from three-point range) could not punish them from the perimeter.

Ready for the challenge

“I thought our defense was very good for most of the game,” Orlando head coach Steve Clifford explained post-game. “Even when things went against us, we hung in the game.

“We have length and we have versatility so there’s a lot of defensive possessions we don’t have to be perfect with.”

The Magic’s desperate late season surge to secure a postseason spot provided a taste of the playoff pressure, and they withstood the Raptors’ third quarter fightback with impressive composure.

“We’ve been playing games that we had to win for a while,” Clifford added. “I think it helps.”

Toronto, clear favourites heading into this series, now have to get back on track in a hurry, with a huge Game 2 ahead on Tuesday night.

Lowry’s quiet night

One of the other glaring storylines was Kyle Lowry’s scoreless night (0-for-7, 0-for-6 from behind the arc). While he did all the other usual Lowry things to help Toronto claw their way back into the game, and finished as a +11, the Raptors need him to be more aggressive as a shooter too. It may just be a case of seeing one or two three-pointers go in.

“Nothing new to me,” Lowry said. “I just missed some shots that were open. I did well on the floor general side but I’ve got to make some shots.”

“I don’t think they [Orlando] did anything special,” Toronto head coach Nick Nurse added.“I think he had some really good looks that he’s going to normally knock down. We need to get him involved a little more offensively and we need some points from him.”

The Magic sent a clear message in the second quarter that they were undaunted, racing into a 16-point lead which the Raptors halved by half-time with a desperate rally. Although Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon (who defended Leonard solidly all game) combined to shoot just 6-for-24, Orlando found a way to grind out the win, setting this series up to be a nail-biter.

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