Despite having their 12-game winning streak snapped Sunday by Oklahoma City, the Raptors (52-18) still have a comfortable five-game lead atop both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference over the Boston Celtics with 12 games remaining.
The margin of the 132-125 defeat was inflated by a last-minute meltdown that started when DeMar DeRozan felt he was fouled on a potential game-tying drive and no call came. DeRozan picked up two technicals and an ejection in the ensuing possession, triggering a further outburst from both forward Serge Ibaka and coach Dwane Casey, who were both run after they each picked up two technical fouls.
The end overshadowed a fine offensive performance by Toronto, who hit 15 of 30 from 3-point range and shot 56.8 percent. DeRozan finished with 24 points while Kyle Lowry added 22 and ten assists while making five of seven from beyond the arc.
The Raptors, who set a franchise record with that 12-game winning streak, are looking to extend their franchise-record run on the road to nine.
Orlando (21-49) were denied back-to-back wins for the second time this month after a 92-83 setback to short-handed Boston on Friday night that was not as close as the final score indicates. Shelvin Mack scored 16 points off the bench as the Magic were held to 31 first-half points and shot 37.8 percent.
The good news for the Magic is they will be closer to full strength as starting forward Aaron Gordon has cleared the league’s concussion protocol and is expected to play. Gordon, who averages 18.3 points and 8.4 rebounds, has missed the last five games due to post-concussion symptoms.
Starting guard Evan Fournier, however, is expected to miss his sixth straight contest with a sprained left MCL.
Three keys to the game
The Raptors are very angry - In a season which they have gained national attention both in Canada and the United States, Sunday's meltdown, to the Raptors at least, showed they still don't have respect within the league. And that, aggravates them to a man.
“We’re used to going against the odds every step of the way,” DeRozan told the Toronto Star. “It’s been like that. We fight through it, but as soon as we say something, we’re the bad guys, we get fined, we get criticized. Every single night when we play, we fight against all the odds. We still prevail, but we’ve all got a breaking point and it’s frustrating. You seen it tonight.”
Can Gordon and Isaac co-exist for the Magic? - With Gordon's return to the lineup, and Fournier's continued absence, there is the possibility coach Frank Vogel can use both Gordon and rookie Jonathan Isaac together. Isaac has missed most of the season with a high ankle sprain, but in replacing Gordon in the starting five, he averaged 6.4 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 35.1 percent.
Some road numbers for the Raptors - Perhaps the most impressive part of Toronto's franchise-record road winning streak is they have averaged 117.4 points while shooting 38.0 percent from 3-point range and 49.6 percent overall. The Raptors have done a good job executing their offense in those wins, with their 11.6 turnovers per game noticeably below their season average of 13.3.
Matchup to watch
PG Kyle Lowry vs PG D. J. Augustin - Lowry has averaged 18.4 points and 8.0 assists in his last six games, but what is making his play stand out have been his proficiency from 3-point range and decision-making. The All-Star point guard has made 18 of 38 from beyond the arc in that span, lifting his season mark to 39.5 percent. Lowry also has a 4.23 assist-to-turnover ratio in those six games, far better than his 2.93 season mark.
His Magic counterpart, whose 32 points Thursday versus Milwaukee were one off his season high, has had mixed results since replacing the departed Elfrid Payton in the starting lineup. Augustin has averaged 13.6 points and 5.4 assists in 17 games, also showing proficiency from beyond the arc as he's made 47.0 percent from 3-point range and has a 2.46 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Toronto Raptors projected starting lineup
PG - Kyle Lowry | SG - DeMar DeRozan | C - Jonas Valanciunas | SF - Norman Powell | PF - Serge Ibaka
Orlando Magic projected starting lineup
PG - D. J. Augustin | SF - Jonathon Simmons | C - Nikola Vucevic | SF - Mario Hezonja | PF - Aaron Gordon
DeRozan had 21 points in the first meeting February 28 in which the Raptors pulled away for a 117-104 victory, which is right near his career mark of 20.2 per game over 25 contests. He has averaged 24.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in the last seven meetings, making 59 of 74 free throws to offset going two of 13 from 3-point range.
Lowry had 17 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds with just two turnovers in last month's win and has recorded six or more assists in nine of the last ten meetings between the teams. He has averaged 18.9 points, 7.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds in that span despite shooting only 38.3 percent overall and 36.6 percent from deep.
Gordon had 11 points and ten rebounds in the first contest, going one of six from 3-point range and four of nine overall. Gordon, though, has not done well against the Raptors over his career, with February's game marking his first double-double in 11 career meetings. He has averaged 6.1 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 36.6 percent.
Augustin went three of five from 3-point range and finished with 11 points and six assists against Toronto, but the bigger concern was the Magic were outscored by 19 points in the 29-plus minutes he was on the court. He has averaged 10.5 points and 4.4 assists in 31 games versus the Raptors, but has scored just 7.0 per game in the last seven matchups after scoring a career-high 35 against them January 25.
The Raptors are ten-point favorites, with the line moving one-half point in their favor since opening. Toronto have been good to bettors of late, covering in seven of their last eight road games as well as their last four road games versus teams with a losing home record.
Toronto are also 10-4 against the spread in their last 14 matchups versus Southeast Division teams and 14-6 in their last 20 overall. The Raptors are also 10-3 against the number in their last 13 versus opponents with a losing record.
Orlando have covered in 13 of their last 19 games against conference rivals and in ten of their last 11 in games following a loss against the spread. The Magic, though, are 8-20-1 in their last 29 games against Atlantic Division teams and have failed to cover in their last four home games against teams with a road winning percentage above .600.
The over/under is 214 points, and the under has been the hot play, hitting in five of the last six meetings in Orlando and seven of the last ten overall. The under has also hit in Toronto's last four games against Southeast Division teams and 6-2-1 in their last nine versus conference rivals.
The under has also hit six times in Orlando's eight games, 15 times in their last 22 home games and also seven times in their last eight home games when facing a road team with a winning percentage above .600.
Toronto have not lost back-to-back games in more than two months, and the teams they lost to, Golden State and Philadelphia, are significantly better than Orlando. Even if backup point guard Fred VanVleet misses a second straight game with a bruised hand, Delon Wright picked up the slack for his fellow bench mob guard with 15 points and eight assists in 31 minutes.
That does not even begin to address the anger the Magic probably have heading into this game. While they could be looking ahead to playing at Cleveland on Wednesday night, remember the Raptors have won 18 straight games against opponents with sub-.500 records, including that 117-104 win at Orlando on February 28.
Look for them to make it 19 as they roll past the Magic 107-91 despite Gordon's return.
The game will be televised nationally in Canada on TSN2 and locally on Fox Sports Orlando. Tip-off time is 7 pm EDT.
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