The Orlando Magic went toe-to-toe with Toronto Raptors and used a late push to steal Game 1 on the road.
After Pascal Siakam made a driving shot and gave Toronto a six-point lead with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Inpredictable’s live win probability model gave the Magic just a 9.7 percent chance of pulling off the upset. With 57 seconds left and the Magic trailing by two, Terrence Ross missed a 3-pointer and their odds were still just 11.9 percent.
The Magic filled those last 57 seconds with the improbable. Aaron Gordon secured the rebound and D.J. Augustin made a driving layup. Kawhi Leonard hit Marc Gasol, open in the corner. He missed his 3-point attempt, Nikola Vucevic got the rebound and Augustin nailed a 3-pointer of his own at the other end to give Orlando a three-point lead with just four seconds left.
They pulled off the upset and the 2019 NBA playoffs have started with both higher seeds losing on their home floor. If this is what we’re in store for over the next six weeks, it’s going to be a wild postseason.
This is a whole different playoffs for Kyle Lowry. His history of playoff struggles is well documented (and somewhat overblown). Given how this game ended and the fact that he finished scoreless on 0-of-7 from the field, this drum is going to be beaten relentlessly over the next few days. Which is unfortunate because Lowry did play a solid game. He finished with 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 2 steals and the Raptors were +11 in his 33 minutes. Toronto doesn’t need him to create offense in the same way they did in previous seasons. They have Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, who combined for 49 points and 7 assists, to lighten the load on Lowry. It certainly would have helped if he could have made a shot or two but you can’t pin this loss just on his shooting line.
Orlando’s defense is really good. Since the All-Star Break, they’ve been fifth in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing just 107.0 points per 100 possessions. They don’t necessarily force a ton of turnovers but they don’t foul, they don’t give up easy shots and they don’t give up second chances on the offensive glass. They managed to do all of that to the Raptors in Game 1, surrendering just 6 offensive rebounds and 14 free throw attempts to Toronto, while allowing TKTK points per 100 possessions. Orlando still has a long way to go if they’re going to win the series but they’ve let Toronto know nothing is going to come easy.
Shooting is the great equalizer. The Magic’s defense kept them in the game, answering every big push by the Raptors by draping long, athletic bodies over Leonard, Siakam and the Raptors perimeter shooters. But those stops wouldn’t have meant anything if Orlando wasn’t also knocking them down at the other end. Headlined by D.J. Augustin’s 4-of-5 performance from behind the arc, the Magic went 14-of-29 on 3-pointers, including 2-of-2 by Aaron Gordon and 2-of-3 by Michael Carter-Williams. This wasn’t an epic, outlier shooting performance. But it was better than they can reasonably expect to shoot going forward and it was enough to overcome a strong game effort from the Raptors.