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Raptors hold off pesky Magic, 110-109

Round one of Jalen Suggs vs Scottie Barnes did not disappoint as Toronto withstood Orlando’s hot shooting to return to .500.

Toronto Raptors take on the Orlando Magic Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Well, that was fun.

The Toronto Raptors overcame a late-charging, pesky Orlando Magic team to win 110-109 in front of a raucous Scotiabank Arena crowd. The highly anticipated first matchup between Jalen Suggs and Scottie Barnes did not disappoint.

Barnes led Toronto with 21 points and nine rebounds, and was one of five Raptors to collect two steals. Most of his damage was done in the first half where he scored nine and 10 points in the first two quarters, respectively. The 4th pick in the 2021 draft took advantage of Orlando’s drop coverage, hitting three jumpers, including a 3-pointer, in the first two minutes.

Shortly after the draft, Suggs vowed revenge on the four teams that passed on him, and Toronto was the first one he’d face. A standout star in Gonzaga, his popularity hit its peak when he drained a game-winning buzzer-beater during last year’s NCAA Final Four. He carried over that clutch gene in this game. With the Magic down 110-98, Suggs stepped to the charity stripe and was serenaded with “Scottie’s Better” chants. Excuse the poor reference, but the bear was definitely poked. Here’s what transpired after the chants:

  • Suggs hit both free throws
  • Suggs drove hard for a layup attempt, and the offensive rebound lands with Wendell Carter Jr. who hits the putback, plus the foul
  • Suggs nails a deep four-point play
  • Suggs blocks a wide-open OG Anunoby dunk attempt, which eventually ended with a Franz Wagner corner 3 ** insert grimacing emoji **

For those not keeping score, that was an 11-0 run, post-mocking-chants. You could cut the tension in the building with a knife. When Anunoby missed a three on the ensuing play with 13 seconds left in the game, memories of DJ Augustin started flowing through.

It must be nice for Nick Nurse to have two of the NBA’s leaders in deflections on the court to hound the Magic guards. On the final possession, it was Gary Trent Jr. who poked the ball into the backcourt and forced Cole Anthony, who led the Magic with 24 points, to launch a desperation half-court heave (or as NBA.com describes it, a 46’ driving floating jumper).

For the second consecutive game, it was the triple B’s that came off the bench first. Chris Boucher (+18), Khem Birch (+15), and Dalano Banton (+5) led the team in plus/minus and, quite frankly, kept the team afloat while Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby struggled in the first half (6 points on 3-of-14 shooting).

Despite being outscored in the paint (38-34) and in transition (13-5), outhustled (-10 in turnovers; -6 from the line) the Magic stayed with Toronto by hitting from beyond the arc. Anthony and Suggs combined for nine triples, while eight different Magic players hit a three. Orlando was +21 from downtown.

For three quarters, VanVleet was held in check with only three points and two assists — a far cry from the franchise-record 54 points he dropped on Orlando last season. As has been the case so far this season, VanVleet stepped into the Kyle Lowry role of do-whatever-it-takes-to-win. On this night, it meant patiently biding his time before unleashing hell on Orlando’s young backcourt. In the 4th quarter alone, Fred scored 16 points, dished four assists, and submitted his resume as the new Toronto Argos Quarterback (we’re all bitter that Sportsnet missed the full court inbound pass from Fred to OG for the fastbreak dunk).

Bringing it back to Banton, the pride of Rexdale continues to impress. He has become more than just a novelty cheer from the Scotiabank Arena crowd and a legitimate source of energy and offense. In both of Toronto’s last two home games, he’s been the first guard off the bench and, for tonight only but possibly more, part of the closing lineup.

This game was another reminder of Toronto’s literal shortcomings. Orlando’s starting frontcourt of Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba combined for 31 points, 30(!) rebounds, and three blocks. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough for Jamahl Mosley’s squad that entered the game without Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke, Michael Carter-Williams, Markelle Fultz, and noted Raptors killer, E’Twaun Moore.

Toronto split their four-game homestand to get back to .500. The Raptors kick off a three-game road trip on Saturday with a rematch against the Pacers in Indiana.