Raptors at Magic game preview
The Toronto Raptors just locked up a playoff spot, but they aren’t ready to take their foot off the pedal just yet.
Toronto looks to inch closer to the Atlantic Division title when it visits the last-place Orlando Magic, who try to avoid a seventh consecutive loss in the series Sunday.
The Raptors (41-31) are headed back to the postseason after sweeping a home-and-home set against Boston with Friday’s 105-103 win. DeMar DeRozan had 30 points and Amir Johnson made a tiebreaking layup with seven seconds left as Toronto improved to 30-2 when leading after three quarters.
"My word is we’re not satisfied. We’ve got to continue getting better. This franchise is built, is fit for a championship environment," coach Dwane Casey told the team’s official website. "I know what it takes to win in this league. Defense wins. We’re building that environment here, that culture. It’s growth. Understanding of what it takes."
The Raptors’ playoff berth is their first since 2007-08, when they fell to Orlando in five games in the first round. They captured their only division crown the season before.
Toronto sits 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Brooklyn in the Atlantic, though the Nets have one game in hand.
"It makes it feel all worth it, honestly," DeRozan said of the team’s past woes. "The hard work, the struggles, the nights going home where you’re just frustrated and don’t want to turn on sports. It really shows you that if you stick at it and don’t give up, not to sound cliche, but it definitely pays off."
The Raptors have given the Magic fits since the start of last season, taking all six matchups while allowing 88.7 points per game. Kyle Lowry and DeRozan scored a combined 52 points and Toronto held a 50-32 rebounding edge in a 105-90 win Feb. 23 the last time these teams met.
Lowry also thrived in this season’s first matchup, posting a season-high 33 points and 11 assists in a 98-83 victory Jan. 29. Lowry had to be helped off the court after injuring his right ankle Friday, but he isn’t expected to miss any time.
Orlando (21-52) has followed a nine-game losing streak with back-to-back wins, 95-85 over Portland on Tuesday and 110-105 over Charlotte in overtime Friday. Nikola Vucevic led the way with 24 points and a season-high 23 rebounds as the Magic stormed back from 16 down.
"I knew it would turn around," Vucevic said. "A 15-16 point lead in this league is nothing. You have to keep fighting, grinding and that’s what we did."
Arron Afflalo finished with 17 points — including a tying 3-pointer with seven seconds left in regulation — and Jameer Nelson had 11 and eight assists in his first game back since missing four with a sore knee.
The Magic outrebounded the Bobcats 57-36, including 19-9 on the offensive glass. Orlando shot 26 of 35 from the foul line while Charlotte was 11 of 14.
"It was great fight by all of the guys," said coach Jacque Vaughn, whose team posted a season high-tying three consecutive victories Nov. 1-6 and Feb. 5-9. "Pretty impressive in a lot of different ways."
The Magic have averaged 107.1 points during a 6-1 stretch at home against fellow Eastern Conference opponents, with three of those last four games going past regulation.
Toronto is 4-22 when giving up more than 101 points.