Following a tough, physical Game 1 against the Orlando Magic, the heavily favourite Toronto Raptors brought their record to 1-10 in the opening game of a playoff series as the ghosts escaped the closet in dramatic fashion thanks to a DJ Augustin three-pointer.
It’s easy for Raptors fans and media alike to recall plenty of playoff failures in the wake of Toronto’s latest one, just as Saturday’s loss can be chalked up to a bad break and an opportunity to regroup for the rest of the series. But, outside of the Canadian market, the media see a fiery Orlando team that has now demanded to be taken seriously, and a Raptors team — and starting point guard — left back at the drawing board:
Orlando Sentinel — After Magic playoff victory over Raptors, maybe now Orlando will be taken seriously
The Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi writes that the Magic can carry the momentum from Game 1 throughout the series and shock the basketball world. He also calls this Magic team the “Raptors’ worst nightmare”:
Welcome to the NBA playoffs, Raptors, who were seemingly caught flat-footed by the Magic’s dogged intensity in Game 1. Even though most of the Magic’s players have never been to the postseason, the Magic have been in playoff mode for the last six weeks — pushing, prodding, playing with an edge and fighting for their postseason lives.
They carried that fight north of the border on Saturday and hit the Great White North like a stifling southern heat wave. Raptors fans sang “O Canada” before the game, but afterward the look on their faces said, “Oh no!”
…The fact is all the pressure is now on the Raptors, who revamped their entire team after getting swept by the Cavaliers in the playoffs last season. Even though they had the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference last year, they rolled the dice and fired the NBA’s Coach of the Year — Dwane Casey — and traded beloved star DeMar DeRozan for Leonard.
What does that mean? It means that it’s mandatory for the Raptors to do better in the playoffs than they did last year. In other words, they simply cannot afford to stub their toe in the postseason or team general manager Masai Ujiri would be the laughingstock of the league.
Magic stun Raptors, win Game 1 of Eastern Conference playoff series in Toronto
Ujiri is desperately trying to convince Leonard that the Raptors are a franchise worthy of re-signing him when he becomes a free agent in July. Leonard, an enigmatic superstar, has given nobody any clue as to where he wants to end up, but it’s pretty clear it won’t be the Raptors if they lose to the Magic in the first round of the playoffs.
This is why the Magic are the Raptors’ worst nightmare. Even though Orlando is a seventh seed, the Magic are playing like one of the best teams in the league during the past 32 games.
Who says the Magic can’t win this series?
NBATV’s Steve Smith “shocked” after Raptors loss
The NBATV crew placed a magnifying glass over Kyle Lowry, as well as his scoreless 0-7 performance and “mental hurdle” in game one. They also pointed out that, despite the win, Orlando didn’t play its best game on Saturday and found an area to exploit when it comes to exposing Marc Gasol on the pick-and-roll in the final possession:
The Orlando Magic were not even supposed to be here. No one had them pegged for a playoff berth, much less competing in Game 1 on the road against one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams.
Even less so after that elite team put on a 22-2 run to try to bury them and end their plucky little comeback. Even less so after the star they acquired for this exact situation seemed to bury the team with a tough jumper over their best defender with a minute to play.
…Give the Magic an inch, they will take a mile. And Augustin took the whole thing.
He patiently drained the 3-pointer with three seconds remaining. Aaron Gordon was able to force Kawhi Leonard into a difficult 3-pointer that was nowhere near the basket.
The Magic stood toe to toe with the star and did what they were not supposed to. They took Game 1 with a gritty and determined effort that has become the norm for this team.
They did it on the stage they were never supposed to reach. And now they have home-court advantage and the first blood — literally with Michael Carter-Williams — of the series.