Magic, Raptors trying to shake off All-Star rust
The Orlando Magic's winning streak ended Friday night in their first game after the All-Star break, and the Toronto Raptors barely kept their seven-game winning streak going.
The Raptors will try to extend it to eight on Sunday when they host the Magic, whose five-game win streak snapped with a 110-109 home loss to the Chicago Bulls.
On Friday night, the Raptors topped San Antonio 120-117 in Toronto. Kawhi Leonard scored the go-ahead points against his former team on a dunk after a steal with 15 seconds remaining and added two free throws in the final second to finish with a game-high 25 points, 19 in the second half.
"I think we act like we're expecting to figure out a way to win a lot lately," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who was ejected in the third quarter after receiving two technical fouls. "I like that about us and the other thing is, we have some guys that can play a little bit better, right? A little rust, a little whatever All-Star break, but you know that Kawhi's 8-for 23 is not a normal night and Marc Gasol was just out of whack."
"We just grinded it away," Leonard said. "Kyle (Lowry) told us we were going to win this game. We all believed that we were and you know, (Friday) was like a playoff game and we had to grind it out all the way to the end."
A major reason for the playoff atmosphere was the hype over the return of former Raptors fan favorite DeMar DeRozan for his first game in Toronto since he was traded, with Jakob Poeltl, to the Spurs for Leonard and Danny Green during the offseason.
In Orlando, the Magic lamented mistakes that cost them a chance to extend their winning streak.
They committed 12 turnovers in the first half, leading to 11 points for the Bulls, and they were 13 of 24 from the free thow line.
"I think that's more a product of again, not playing for eight days," Magic coach Steve Clifford said. "We're not going to shoot 54 percent from the line many nights. If we do we're in trouble."
Clifford also held himself accountable for not having 7-foot All-Star center Nikola Vucevic on the court when Chicago center Robin Lopez grabbed a rebound and laid it in to give the Bulls a 108-106 lead with 8.7 seconds remaining.
"You can say whatever at the end, free throws, fouling, all that stuff," Clifford said. "Nobody made a bigger mistake in that game than me. I didn't see that they put Lopez back in the game and we ended up too small out there, and we ended up giving up an offensive rebound."
"I think we all made mistakes throughout the game that brought us to that point," Vucevic said. "Obviously, you respect a coach when he comes in like that and takes accountability for a mistake like that."
The Raptors have won 14 of their past 15 games at home, where they are 25-5 for the season.
This will be the third meeting of the season between the Raptors and the Magic and the first in Toronto. The Raptors won 93-91 on Nov. 20 and the Magic won 116-87 on Dec. 28 when Vucevic had 30 points and 19 rebounds.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 24, 2019