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Game 1 Turning Point: Kawhi and Gasol miss the switch, give up game-winner

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The Raptors looked to be in control mid way through the fourth thanks to an 11-4 run, but some bench problems and a defensive mixup on the winning shot granted the Magic a huge confidence boost.

NBA: Playoffs-Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

In a game where the Raptors allowed a 15-0 run by Orlando — and got a 22-2 run going their way — the final result was ultimately decided by a late-clock 3-point shot by D.J. Augustin. As it happened, in the middle of the fourth, the Raptors were poised to take a series lead, until things got mixed up. The score was 90-86, the Raptors had just concluded an 11-4 run, regained some momentum, and Marc Gasol was just subbed in for Serge Ibaka.

Ibaka had been playing amazing defense against Orlando’s lone All-Star Nikola Vucevic all game, and so had Gasol. Vucevic was held to 3-of-14 for 11 points on the day, a far cry from his usual level of production (we’ll avoid that topic for now). Still, Gasol seemed a little cold off the bench. Upon his checking in, Vucevic found a brief moment of offensive freedom — assisting on a corner Aaron Gordon triple, before nailing a three of his own to get the Magic within two points.

Once Kyle Lowry checked back in for Fred VanVleet (who really had a miserable game defensively), things tightened up a bit for Gasol. But that three minute stretch would prove fatal by allowing the Magic right back into the mix, where they gave the Raptors their best the rest of the way.

From there, Augustin took what he was given, and it ended up with a wide-open three with under five seconds remaining that broke the tie and won Game 1 for the Magic:

After the game, Nick Nurse stated that Gasol and Leonard got their wires crossed, and that Kawhi was actually supposed to go above the screen and stay with Augustin. On the final defensive play:

“Yeah, we were in our coverage and our coverage was to get over the top of the screen and have Marc be up and help on that and then stay home,” Nurse recalls.

He continued, “I saw the highlight quick, coming through on TV quick, I haven’t watched the game film, but it looked like Kawhi thought it was a switch and went under to hold up Vucevic and Marc was still in the up position but not the switch position, so it gave him the room to get it off.”

Tough break for Toronto, especially with two former Defensive Players of the Year out there looking to keep the Magic off the scoreboard late. “There was a mistake made on that play,” said Gasol. “We miscommunicated and [Augustin] made a good shot. That’s what happened.”

Leonard would have 3.4 seconds to get up a shot on the other end but was guarded well and let fly a contested triple that air-balled out of bounds. It was a disappointing ending to be sure, but the small things ended up being the difference makers in Game 1.

Whether it be better substitutions, more communication on defense or other small adjustments, expect a better prepared Raptors squad for Game 1.