Breaking the Magic’s thwarted return to Toronto


The Magic were heartbroken in Toronto on Friday night, roaring back in the dying moments of the game to end terribly short when the final siren sounded. For a young team that thinks they’ll take a number of pieces throughout the season, every time a win slips through their fingers it’s going to be sobering. What could have been, what should have been, what ultimately was not.

With a shadow of over a minute to go, it was a quick practice from Jalen Suggs and solid offensive glasswork from Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. who clawed back two points and initially fueled. the idea of ​​an unlikely return. Let’s pick up the action of the Magic’s next possession with the ball in hand and unpack how those streaks broke down.

With 1:03 on the clock, Carter Jr. recovers the rebound after OG jumper Anunoby pulls the front iron. It was a solid streak from the big man, staying ahead of the Toronto forward and making enough contact to move his opponent’s attempt a foot or two farther from the basket than it otherwise could have been. . He quickly hits Cole Anthony with an out pass and the Magic race against the Raptors in reverse.

Anthony crosses the half court and comes back towards the middle of the court, using a WCJ screen that gets just enough of Gary Trent Jr. to force a change. He accelerates when he spots Scottie Barnes, who puts his body in position but fails to follow or use his hands to circle the leader of the Magic. This forces Fred Van Vleet, himself caught in a lag on Bamba, to slip in and meet the reader, which he successfully does. Toronto’s rotations elsewhere are also on the cards, with Dalano Banton remaining in position to undo a possible Franz Wagner ejection, and Anunoby and Trent Jr. collapsing to take the easy lob to Bamba.

Those rotations, however, have now resulted in a Toronto defense that is exclusively positioned below the free throw line and largely in the painted area. Barnes stops after Anthony passes him, a decision which proves fatal as he is then unable to trap the ball handler or even put pressure on the kick to come. – he is essentially reduced to a passive observer in no man’s land. Anthony recognizes the now unmarked Carter Jr., who had dragged to the top of the arc after adjusting the screen that took his teammate off in the first place. The tall man showed no hesitation in whipping the ball to the unmarked Suggs on the wing, which had filled to the three-point line just above the break.

Barnes and Anunoby are both too far away to make a meaningful contest but still run, a decision made even worse by OG’s decision to jump on Suggs’ rider. The Magic’s rookie shooting momentum propels him forward about a foot, enough to scoop up the leaping Toronto defender and ensure he blows the whistle. Shortly after the sound of the ball, the ball splashed into the net, an icy free throw moments later crowned the game at four points. It’s now 110-106 in Toronto’s favor and Orlando has a chance. A drive, a kick and an extra pass did their job.

Toronto spreads the ground on the next possession, putting a shooter in each corner and their top two playmakers high on each wing. Orlando gets by initially, but when Anunoby moves towards the nail with the apparent intention of providing a ball screen, Bamba anticipates and rushes to pass Van Vleet with the ball. The crafty Raptors point guard immediately recognizes him and tilts the pitch with a cross pass to Barnes, requiring a spin from Carter Jr. that threatens to give Anunoby an almost unchallenged roll towards the hoop. That’s exactly what is happening, and with 44.8 left, the ball is headed for Toronto forward, unmarked and without a single Magic defender in front of him in the painted area.

Anunoby catches the ball half a second later with one foot already in the restricted area, with the prospect of a basket actually essentially closing the contest door in her mind. However, Suggs has already read this piece perfectly, acknowledging the danger and leaving his man in the corner running for a contest at the edge. He shows an incredible pace to meet the Raptor as he catches the entry pass, getting a beautifully clean shot with his left hand that completely removes the ball from the opposition’s grip. Bamba cleans the loose starfruit and a few seconds later, the Magic leaves with Anthony at the helm.

It was an incredible individual defensive effort, and one that really had no right to materialize. Toronto read the play and angles with precision, only to be belied by a sensational play that few could have done at the time. Suggs’ four point game was really just a “right place, right time” case. It was something else and it is a testament to high basketball instincts.

This is a deceptively simple streak, but one that will likely resonate due to how final possession ultimately went, perhaps the result of one major difference. With Anthony settling into the half court against a Toronto defense, the Magic extended the weak side with three shooters behind the arc; this gives Cole a chance to isolate himself from his straightforward clash, a fact that Wagner notices just in time, allowing him to pull out of the taxiway and stretch out to the strong turn.

Once the game is reduced to a one-on-one match, Anthony simply gives Van Vleet a quick duke, passing the defender’s hips with a speed boost and a change of direction. Banton slides properly to help stop the penetration, but that leaves Wagner all alone in the corner. Cole kicks, Franz shoots and the margin is just one point.

This one required a sharp shot at the end, but it was really as easy as spaceing the floor out and letting a player show off their individual talents. Anthony made a play that Wagner was good enough to finish, against a defense that hadn’t had a chance to discuss with his coaching staff. With the Magic in need of a bucket to expand this contest further, they did it through instinct and execution in the natural flow of the game.

With a one-point lead and with two possessions remaining in the game, the Raptors opted not to use their last outing and instead put the ball in the hands of Van Vleet, tested for the championship. They make up what is ostensibly a 1-5 ball screen action with Barnes as a pick, though they’re obviously quite positionless at this point. Bamba stays below as Anthony tries to fight, but the young guard is hung up very lightly and Van Vleet capitalizes with a quick turn. Anthony is toast, Bamba never quite manages to cut the ball carrier off, so instead the Raptor enters the teeth of the defense where he is met by WCJ as the last line of resistance.

Van Vleet admits the spins left Anunoby wide open just above the break, so he turns and kicks the sniper. Luckily for the Magic, his attempt is just an inch too long, and Bamba is able to use his long limbs to secure the board (although he failed to put a body on the crashing Barnes) . The basketball gods have blessed the magic with one final blow to an unlikely upheaval.

At the bottom of one, in the bonus, and facing a jostling Raptors defense, the ball finds its way into Suggs hands with 8.7 ticks still displayed. He hits the half court at the mark of 6.0 and is tamed in the waiting assist defense at the nail by 5.8. Wagner is already deep in the corner from where he just scored a whopping three, while Bamba and Anthony both lag behind the game without a defender still clearly determined to cover those possibilities; the Raptors are all understandably much more worried about the conduct underway (WCJ is in the place of the dunker, for clarity).

Instead of riding with the opportunity that came naturally, head coach Jamahl Mosley calls for a time out on the bench. The Magic walked over to the group, emerging a minute later with the same fives and a plan. With Wagner as the trigger, they perform a filter action that results in a defensive change for Anthony, who jumps high to receive the incoming pass. He rallies fairly neatly, but by bringing the ball to his body he gives Trent Jr. the opportunity to push the ball – which he does, dislodges it and sends it streamlined into the backcourt. Anthony cleans up and manages to get the best look he can on the half court under the circumstances, but Hail Mary’s attempt is wide and the comeback is terribly short.

It’s hard to argue with the end game. He handed the ball into the hands of Orlando’s most dangerous scorer, and the ground was extended to allow him to attack into space. Passage off-screen wasn’t exactly optimal – Trent Jr. is a bit longer than Van Vleet, who had been torched on a few plays before – but that shouldn’t have been a huge problem either. . Anthony arguably made a mistake bringing the ball to his waist in cramped quarters (instead of rolling his body back inside), but nine out of ten times it probably doesn’t end with this result. All in all, it was quite unfortunate.

However, it’s fair to raise a few questions about the decision-making that ultimately shaped it. The Magic put their finger on the natural flow of the game by calling the time out, which gave them the opportunity to set and realign the pitch, but also give the opposition a chance to sort out their own assignments. It would also be reasonable to suggest that if the team needed a huddle, they should have called it almost five seconds earlier when Bamba recovered the last bounce of the game with 11.6 seconds left. Considering how precious time was at the end of things, this turns out to be a major misstep.

Also essential, the Magic ended this game with a time out still at its disposal. After the ball broke free from Anthony’s grip, he was able to pull himself together with 2.8 ticks still on the clock – that the team didn’t call the time-out at this point is particularly glaring. Three seconds can be an absolute eternity in an NBA game, and it would have allowed the team to regain their composure, draw something with a new wrinkle, and potentially generate a look cleaner than a mid-court heave. . In a frenzied streak with players scrambling the clock, the clock was seemingly forgotten, in stark contrast to the micromanaging of possession moments earlier.

To be clear, those last few seconds aren’t the reason the Magic lost. Instead, it would be much more informative to point the finger at the disaster of Hampton’s minutes, or the lopsided turnovers, or the Raptors’ soft shot to open the fourth. Still, it was a night when the young players actually performed things quite well in close competition, only to see another element of the team’s handling of the game lose the chance.

The whole team, from players to coaches, should be happy with the way this Magic fought back; it speaks of a resilience and a character that they build with every game. However, the final moments of Friday night’s tilt also demonstrate the multitude of ways this team can still improve.

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