Raptors, with eye on postseason, face Magic

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The Toronto Raptors will be out to sweep the season series from the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night as they continue to build up for a defense of their NBA championship.

The Raptors (48-18) have won both of their games since the restart in the schedule that is being played near Orlando. They’re on a six-game winning streak overall.

Toronto has won all three meetings against the Magic (32-36) this season, most recently 90-83 at Orlando on Nov. 29.

The Raptors have won 23 of the past 29 regular-season games between the teams and 27 of the past 34 matchups with the playoffs included.

The Magic had a five-game overall winning streak end Tuesday night when they fell to the Indiana Pacers, 120-109.

In their previous game, the Magic lost forward Jonathan Isaac indefinitely to a torn ACL in his left knee early in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Sacramento Kings.

“For him to go down like that was very difficult to see, especially when you know he just came back” from a hyperextended knee sustained Jan. 1, said center Nikola Vucevic, who led the Magic with 24 points and 10 rebounds on Tuesday.

The Raptors defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 107-92 on Saturday, but they had a tougher time in beating the Miami Heat 107-103 on Monday. The latter win came with a career-best 36 points from Fred VanVleet as Toronto prepares for the playoffs following a four-month layoff because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The time that we’ve had before, a couple of weeks, just kind of getting ready, it was rough,” Raptors forward Pascal Siakam said. “But I think it’s still rough. I think we’re just figuring it out.”

One of the pleasant developments has been the improvement of 23-year-old forward OG Anunoby, particularly on defense.

Anunoby has at least one steal in each of his past 17 games, the team’s longest single-season streak since Kyle Lowry had at least one steal in 21 consecutive games during the 2015-16 season. Anunoby (91) ranks second on the team in total steals, behind VanVleet (93).

“There’s a lot of stuff there,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “He’s got a great athletic body, a pretty good mindset to play it, plays hard, takes challenges. There’s a lot to like at this stage at that end of the floor, for sure.”

The Magic won their first two games after play resumed, beating the Brooklyn Nets 128-118 and Sacramento 132-116, but they are in a difficult four-game stretch that started with the loss to Indiana.

The Magic’s playoff pursuit likely hangs in the balance as the Toronto matchup is followed by games against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics, all playoff teams.

“In order for us to do what we want to do, which is to have playoff success, we’re going to have to be playing better by the eighth (seeding) game than we are right now, and the best way to do that or one of the ways is to play the best teams,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.

The Magic fell out of the loss to Indiana early. The Pacers raced to a 19-3 lead to open the game and led by 21 points at halftime.

“If we’re going to be a factor in this, we’ve got to play smart and hard, and we did neither of those tonight,” Clifford said.

–Field Level Media