ORLANDO – Fans desperate to watch a high-ranking playoff basketball in Orlando for the first time in seven years have crammed the Amway Center on Friday night and filled the air with thunderous noise and harsh emotion.
However, in the end, their hopes and dreams for the Orlando Magic were lifted by a bleak third quarter drought and inability to consistently fight against the Toronto Raptors' elite defense.
The Magic hobbled in the third quarter with a goalless draw of 6 ½ minutes, never fully digging out a deficit that rose to 17 points, leading to a disappointing loss of 98-93 for the Raptors in Friday's match 3.
After winning the first game in Toronto last Saturday, the Magic two fell in the series and lost 2-1. They could play very well for their basketball life on Sunday when Game 4 is played at the Amway Center.
Orlando electrified the second-largest crowd to watch a game at the Amway Center in the fourth round, playing 1:55 in 94-90. Toronto superstar striker Kawhi Leonard, on the other hand, seemed to have gotten away on a trip as he hoped for a lay-up attempt twice, and seconds later team-mate Pascal Siakam converted a floater to bring the Raptors' lead to six points.
Terrence Ross, the hero of so many Magic comebacks this season, has played a 3-pointer in 42 seconds to bring Orlando back into the lead. However, Leonard's later miss threw in the air and was thrown back by Kyle Lowry, who brought the ball to Leonard. Leonard's two free throws, with 12.9 only defeating the frustrating fate of Orlando.
Nikola Vucevic, who scored in the first two games with an average of 8.5 points in the game, had an outbreak performance of 22 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Ross scored 24 points and five 3-point points, but on a night in which Orlando made only 36.3 percent of his shots and only 13 of 44 threes, that was far from enough.
Evan Fournier, who excitedly awaited Friday's playoff game in front of Magic fans, struggled through a nightmarish shooting game. He made only one of 12 field goals and one of eight 3-point shots. Jonathan Isaac scored 14 points, took seven rebounds and blocked two shots.
Toronto striker Pascal Siakam, the NBA's Most Improved Player Award winner, scored 30 points in 13 of 20 shots. Leonard suffered from an otherwise gloomy night and made only five of 19 strokes for 16 points with his 10 rebounds.
Danny Green and Kyle Lowry injured the magic with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The second-largest crowd that had ever seen a NBA game in Orlando – 19,367 – filled the Amway Center on Friday. The only crowd that was larger in franchise history took place on April 12, 2017, when 19,458 spectators watched the spell host the Detroit Pistons. On Friday, December 31, 2012, the crowd surpassed 19,311 when Orlando hosted Miami when LeBron played James for rival Heat.
The series moved to Orlando, after the two teams had split the first two games in Canada. The Magic captured the opener 104-101 in a breathtaking way on a playful 3-pointer by Augustin. In Game 2, the Raptors even left the series behind Leonard's 37 points.
The first playoff game of the Amway Center in seven seasons has been witnessed. In the minutes before the start on Friday night, the Magic fans roared with noise and emotions. The fans wore magical T-shirts – half in blue and the other half in white – and sparkled in the air as they cheered wildly as Stuff dropped the mascot off the ceiling of the Amway Center and introduced each player. Former Magic stars Tracy McGrady, Jameer Nelson and Steve Francis scored with the crowd and cheered their former team.
Vucevic, the franchise's longest-serving player, predicted well ahead of Friday's start that the night would be an emotional night for both the players and the fans. For six years, magic has been undergoing a painful recovery process, testing the will and patience of everyone involved. Vucevic, a member of Magic for seven seasons, was happy to be part of the team that brought the playoff basketball to Orlando.
"It's been a while for them (to watch a playoff game in Orlando), so I'm sure they're excited," Vucevic said. “ We are also happy to play in front of them. These fans deserve it. "
Game 4 will be Sunday – also in Orlando. In contrast to the first three games of the series, where there were two days off between the two games to rest and make adjustments, the rest of the series will be played every other day from now on.
In the second half, it was three, and the moment Ross had shot the buzzer towards the end of the second hour, Orlando took the first lead of the night early in the third hour. The magic, however, did not know that the disaster would lurk around the corner when Vucevic drilled a 3-pointer to raise it to 59-57. The magic would again lead at 61:60 on two free-throws from Vucevic, but they would come in a section where they missed 12 direct shots. During this grueling track, Toronto has broken 16 consecutive points to increase its lead to 15 points. Isaac ended the drought with a follow slam, but still led the magic into a smashing 76-65 hole after three periods.
Vucevic took advantage of Marc Gasol's foul at half-time and scored 14 points in the quarter-final with two three and four free throws in the third quarter.
The Magic dropped eleven points in the first round and did not lead the first 24 minutes of the game, but they took the momentum into the dressing room after Ross had another miracle game shot. Ross built a 3-pointer from 41 meters up just before the half-time horn and drew Orlando within 48-45.
It once again proved extremely difficult to score against Toronto's outstanding defense, especially for a second game in a row for Magic. In Game 2, the Magic fell 11: 0 and fell disappointingly on Friday in a 10-0 hole after he had missed his first four blows.
Orlando remained within reach at the start of the game and almost throughout the first half of the game because of Isaac's allround game, which had the first basket of Magic on a Follow Dunk. He played every 12 minutes of the first hour and gave the Magic eight points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.
The defensive length of Isaac, Gordon and Vucevic seemed to suit Leonard early in the game. The defenders of Magic stuffed his four shots and held him down to only two points in the first quarter – an amazing feat, considering the Superstar offspring came from a 37-point performance in Game 2 on Tuesday Minutes of the game, they forced him to five envelopes.
Having worked so many times this season, Ross has saved the magic with his ability to shoot in the first half. With Fournier (two points out of five, two points) and Vucevic (two out of five, four points) fighting for clear looks, Ross scored eleven points in the first half by knocking twice to the bench and twice three pointers struck.
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