The No. 7-seed Orlando Magic stunned the NBA world on the first day of the playoffs, going on the road to take down the No. 2 Toronto Raptors in Game 1 thanks to a last-second 3-pointer by D.J. Augustin. After that, however, this series was all Raptors. They took the next four games by a combined 75 points, including a 115-96 victory in Game 5 to win the series, 4-1.
Now, they’ll move on to the second round of the playoffs for the third straight season. The good news for them this time though, is that LeBron James won’t be waiting for them. Still, they’ll have a tough challenge in the Philadelphia 76ers — that is, assuming the 76ers don’t blow a 29-point lead in the second half of Game 5 against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Raptors won three of the four regular season meetings between the two teams, and the one they lost was a game Leonard sat out. However, all of those games were before the Sixers made their big move for Tobias Harris at the trade deadline and formed the talented starting lineup they have now.
Here are some takeaways from the series between the Raptors and Magic.
Kawhi shows why they brought him here
The offseason trade to acquire Kawhi Leonard always came with a lot of risk for the Raptors, and he still may choose to leave in the summer. But in the first round against the Magic, he showed exactly why Masai Ujiri and Co. were willing to take that risk. When healthy, he’s a top-five player in the league, and can completely take over playoff games, as he did on multiple occasions against Orlando.
Down 1-0, Leonard bounced back with 37 points, four rebounds and four assists in Game 2, sending a message that even though they lost Game 1 again, this wasn’t going to be the same old story for the Raptors in the playoffs. Later on, he put up 34 points and six rebounds in Game 4, as the Raptors took a commanding 3-1 series lead. And all of that was in addition to his typically strong effort on the defensive end.
Magic have reason to be proud
Moral victories may not be for everyone, but even though Orlando’s season ended in disappointing fashion with the blowout loss in Game 5, they have reason to be proud of what they accomplished this season. They were 11 games under .500 at the end of January, then went 22-9 from that point out, including an 11-2 stretch to close the season and make the playoffs.
This was their first trip to the postseason since 2012, their 42 wins were their most since 2011, and they won their division for the first time since 2010. To accomplish all of that after yet another poor start shows some impressive character. It would have been quite easy for this team to pack things in and get ready for another trip to the lottery.