Magic seeking key win in visit to Toronto
The Orlando Magic will continue their battle to make the playoffs on Monday when they visit the Toronto Raptors, who are preparing for the postseason.
The Raptors still have something to play for in the game, however. They can clinch the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with a win over the Magic. The Milwaukee Bucks are in first.
The Magic's playoff hopes received a boost with their 121-116 road victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. The Magic have five games left in the regular season, including the game Monday.
Orlando has won seven of its past eight games.
"That was a big win for us to come here on their floor," Magic center Nikola Vucevic said after the win over Indiana. "They've been playing great here all year long. They're a tough team to beat here."
The Magic have had success against the Pacers. They took the season series with Indians 3-1 and have won their past two games at Indianapolis. The Philadelphia 76ers are the only other team to win twice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season.
The Magic also have had success against the Raptors, holding a 2-1 advantage in the season series. The teams split two games in Orlando and the Magic defeated the Raptors 113-98 in Toronto on Feb. 24. Former Raptor Terrence Ross scored 28 points in that game and Vucevic had 23 points and 12 rebounds.
The Raptors are coming off a 124-101 road victory over the Chicago Bulls Saturday.
Toronto was without Kawhi Leonard (personal reasons), OG Anunoby (concussion symptoms) and Patrick McCaw (thumb). Pascal Siakam also did not play to give him a rest.
Fred VanVleet, who scored 23 points Saturday, found it "a little weird" without Siakam.
"The (absence of) throw-aheads, the (missing) energy, just the one-on-ones, the bailouts, so yeah, (Siakam) was awkward all day," VanVleet said. "He didn't know what to do, when to sit down. He just looked weird. ... Hopefully we won't see too much more of that but the guy deserves it and he needs it and as long as we have him feeling good going into the playoffs, that's all we worry about."
With Leonard and Anunoby out, Serge Ibaka played at power forward for the first time this season scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Magic made a drastic turnaround from their loss to the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. Against the Pacers, they recorded a season-best 37 assists on 47 field goals as they shot 51.1 percent from the field. They also made 15 3-pointers.
"Night and day and it starts with an energy level," Magic coach Steve Clifford said of the difference in the Magic's past two games. "Our defense wasn't as good as it needs to be, but it wasn't lack of effort.
We put a lot into the offense. (The Pacers are) terrific defensively and they're hard to play against."
The Raptors, meanwhile, would be just as happy if the playoffs started now. Instead they have five games remaining and coach Nick Nurse intends to make good use of them.
"It's not like I'm saying we haven't done this enough or that enough or he hasn't played enough," Nurse said. "We're ready to roll but since it's not time to roll and there is time to polish a few things up then we are going to do that."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 31, 2019