The Raptors have a chance to close out the Magic... tonight! Mike Calli of the Orlando Pinstriped Post was kind enough to answer some questions for us heading into Game 5:
Both Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka had huge games on Sunday, propelling the Raptors to victory. What did they do differently this time around?
This seemed like the first game of this series where one of the benches actually made an impact on the result of the game.
Entering Game 4, all of the Raptors primary reserves were shooting less than 40 per cent in the series. That changed in a big way with Normal Powell shooting 7-for-9 for 16 points, nearly surpassing his total from the first three games combined (17 points, 31.6 percent shooting), and Serge Ibaka shooting 5-for-6 for 13 points.
Overall, the ball movement when the Raptors’ second unit was on the floor seemed much better than it had been. Powell, after struggling with his three-point shot the first three games, was aggressive throughout in Game 4, attacking the basket without hesitation and often beating the Magic off the dribble with relative ease. And with Jonathan Isaac, the Magic’s best rim protector, limited by foul trouble, it opened things up inside even more.
Ibaka’s first quarter block on Aaron Gordon’s dunk attempt seemed to light some kind of fire within him because after that he was extremely active, particularly on the offensive glass. Sometimes converting a few east putbacks is enough to ignite a player offensively.
As a Raptors fan, I’ve been where you are before (unfortunately, too many times). I’d like to hear your thoughts on the mindset of Magic fans heading into a potentially series-deciding Game 5.
Steve Clifford has been adamant about eliminating the acceptance of “moral victory” in Orlando. That being said though, I think most Magic fans entering the series would have viewed a six-game series as a success. Expectations may have raised somewhat after the Magic’s unexpected win in Game 1, and that’s what made it all the more disappointing that the Magic were unable to at least split the two games on their home court and head back to Toronto with the series even at 2-2.
While disappointed with how the series has turned out after Game 1, I think the fanbase recognizes that the Magic are losing to a much better team. Overall, fans are pretty satisfied with the progress the Magic made this season, and I don’t think that will change much if they lose in Game 5. Having been blown out in Game 4, it would obviously be great to see the Magic make adjustments, continue to fight and keep things close in Game 5.
If they can somehow steal another win in Toronto to get the series back to Orlando for Game 6, it would further validate their successful season. And if that happens, there will probably be a question coming your way about the mindset of Raptors fans.
In our previous article you mentioned that when the Magic clinched a playoff spot, you picked the Raptors as the team you’d most like to play against in the first round. Knowing how the series has gone, would you still have rather played the Raptors over the Bucks, Celtics or 76ers?
Nope. Had I known how easily Marc Gasol would neutralize Nikola Vucevic in this series, I would have wanted no part of the Raptors, simply because the Magic offense is so heavily predicated on Vooch operating out of the post. I know Vucevic had difficulty against Gasol in the past, but with the two now at different stages of their careers, I never anticipated Vooch struggling to this degree.
When I picked the Raptors, my reasoning was based on the Magic having an athletic frontcourt that could disrupt Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam (wrong again). I was so focused on containing the Raptors offensively that I overlooked the difficulties an offensively inconsistent team like the Magic would potentially have against such a strong defensive team like the Raptors. Leonard and Siakam have had their way in this series, but the Magic have been failed by their offense, not their defense.
So in hindsight, seeing how banged up Joel Embiid has been against the Nets, and knowing that Vucevic scored over 24 a game and shot better than 50 per cent this season against the Sixers, I’d change my pick to Philly.
Thanks again for speaking with us, Mike. If you’d like to check out some more quality Magic content, make sure to visit the Orlando Pinstriped Post.