By Melissa Potes
EBC Florida Bureau
ORLANDO, Florida (Eagle News) – Playing to the second largest crowd in its franchise history, the Orlando Magic played well but still lost 98-93 to the Toronto Raptors in the third game of a best-in-seven series.
A slow start, turnovers and a strong dose of forward Pascal Siakam contributed to the loss. Siakam shot 65 percent from the floor with 30 points and 11 rebounds, allowing Toronto to reclaim home-court advantage.
As with numerous games throughout the regular season, the Magic entered this game and the third quarter flat.
“We got to figure out the beginning of halves,” said Magic head coach Steve Clifford. “Both games, the first five minutes of the first quarter and the first five minutes of the third quarter.”
“During the third quarter, we have to come out and be better. Play with more intensity and play smarter,” added Orlando center Nikola Vucevic. “A lot of times we have turnovers and empty possessions to start the third quarter. Our defense isn’t always there. The third quarter can change games, especially playoff games.”
The Magic’s lack of intensity would allow Toronto to gain double-digit leads during those quarters.
Vucevic had his usual double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds, but an uncharacteristic five out of team’s 16 turnovers.
“Obviously our turnovers hurt us again. We had too many of those, especially on empty possessions,” Vucevic said. “Against a team like them, we can’t have that…mostly it was our turnovers that hurt us tonight.”
Although the Magic limited the damage forward Kawahi Leonard has the potential to inflict, holding him to only 16 points, they had no answer for Siakam.
“We did a better job on Kawahi, but they have a lot of other good players on the team. Siakam had a great game,” said Vucevic.
When asked about his performance, Siakam responded by saying “Our team is equal opportunity. We all have the opportunity to score and that’s the type of team we are. Today it could be me, the next night it will be Danny, Kyle, it could be anybody. I think it’s just taking what the defense gives us and going with it.”
Along with Vucevic’s 22 points, the Magic had double-digit scoring from forwards Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, 10 and 14 respectively. Guard Terrence Ross provided a spark off the bench with a team-high 24 points. However, guards Evan Fournier and DJ Augustin were held in check and only contributed seven points apiece.
In order to give the Magic a chance in the next game, Clifford alluded to searching for answers.
“The decision making at the rim [needs to improve] and we are going to have to hit those spot-ups… They’re going to be coming. You gotta find open people, drop it off or kick it out for three, and then make the next play,” Clifford said.
Although the Magic have lost two in a row and lost home-court advantage, Clifford remained positive.
“It’s 2-1, it’s not like its 3-0. They have the home court back…we have to play better We have to have the right attitude,” said Clifford. “Handling disappointment is a huge part of NBA basketball and it’s a bigger part of playoff basketball. They have to be able to feel like you got kicked in the teeth, which we did. We’re one long rebound away from having a chance to tie the game, that’s the way it is. I mean if we can’t get passed that we don’t deserve to win.”
(Eagle News Service)