For the final instalment of the Magic series’ Three Questions, we spoke to managing editor Mike Calli of the Orlando Pinstriped Post to hear his thoughts looking back on the first round.
In the spirit of positivity, let’s reminisce on some of the best Orlando Magic moments/plays during this series. Are there any that pop into your head?
Thinking… thinking… thinking.
Yeah, I can only think of one: the D.J. Augustin game-winning shot in Game 1.
After that, the Magic didn’t hold a lead in the series again until midway through the third quarter of Game 3. In fact, I went back and did the math and, after Game 1, Orlando held a lead over the Raptors from a grand total of five minutes and 49 seconds over three games. The Raptors led the entire way in Games 2 and 5, the Magic held the lead for 27 seconds in Game 3 and for the first 5:22 of Game 4. When playing from behind for the entire series, mostly by a large margin, there won’t be too many happy moments to select from.
The Terrence Ross half court buzzer beater at the end of the second quarter in Game 2 was good too. Outside of that and the Augustin shot, and some solid play from Aaron Gordon, you can pretty much burn all of the rest of the tape from the five games. Nikola Vucevic’s agent will pour the gasoline on it himself.
That being said, the series against the Raptors should in no way overshadow the strides a young Magic team made this season overall: a 17-win improvement, an All-Star, their first playoff appearance in seven years, a division title, a change in culture, and optimism for next season. And we are all pretty excited about the prospect of Mo Bamba and Markelle Fultz joining the rotation next season.
After watching the Raptors for an extended period of time, how do you envision Toronto faring against the 76ers in the next round?
Well, with four or five All-Star caliber players, it’s safe to say that the Sixers offense will fare a little better against the swarming Raptors defense than the Magic did. I’m dying to see if Marc Gasol can shut down another All-Star center in Joel Embiid, who is probably a little more capable of handling the Raptors’ physical play and double teams than Nikola Vucevic. Embiid had his way against the Raptors this season, averaging 26.3 points on 49 percent shooting, but each of those four match-ups came before Toronto acquired Gasol. In two games this season against the Grizzlies while Gasol was there, Embiid averaged just 14.5 points on 28 percent shooting. And Kawhi Leonard is going to frustrate the hell out of Ben Simmons as he always has.
Those are key match-ups where the advantage goes to the Raptors. Philly may have the more star power, but in my opinion, the Raptors have the best starting five of any team in the league not named the Warriors (don’t remind me of their net rating against Orlando). The Sixers don’t have much depth, and the Raptors’ bench seemed to find their rhythm late in the series against the Magic. Prediction: the Toronto defense will lead the Raptors into the Eastern Conference Finals where they’ll have home court advantage against the Boston Celtics [Editor’s note: BOLD! I like it.]
Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam put up monster numbers as a tandem this series, with Lowry in charge of holding it all together. I’m curious to hear an outsider’s best guess: do you think this series impacted the chances of Kawhi staying in Toronto?
Having watched Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard all leave Orlando in their prime, I truly hope Kawhi stays in Toronto. Good team, good fans, good situation. The Raptors gambled when they acquired him, and for organizations like Toronto and Orlando that aren’t exactly marquee free agent destinations, losing a player of that caliber for nothing can set a team back years.
But we all hear the Kawhi-to-the-Clippers rumors. And Kawhi is something of an enigma off the court so I’m not even going to try to pretend that I have any idea what his priorities will be in his decision-making process this summer. I’m not so sure one dominant series against a clearly overmatched seventh-seed like the Magic would have that much of an impact on Kawhi’s decision. But a run to the Eastern Conference Finals or NBA Finals certainly could. And after watching the Raptors for five games, just about all of Orlando is convinced that will happen.
Congrats to the Raptors and their fans on advancing, and best of luck moving forward in the playoffs. Despite the results of the series, it’s been fun chatting.
Thanks again to Mike, who was kind enough to share his thoughts with us throughout the entire series. Make sure to check in with the Orlando Pinstriped Post for more quality off-season content.