After a stunning and exciting Game 1 victory for the underdog, the first round series between the Orlando Magic and the Toronto Raptors ended with a thud. Given that the Raptors were widely expected to make quick work of the Magic, this came as no surprise and, in Game 5 back in Toronto, Orlando put up little resistance on the way to a 115-96 loss in the clincher.
In the coming days, a lot of attention will be paid to the Raptors through the prism of their upcoming match-up with the Philadelphia 76ers but, on the Orlando side, this is the end of the line after an encouraging season-long performance. Orlando entered the campaign with a Las Vegas over/under of 30.5 wins and, despite some early struggles, Steve Clifford’s team lapped those modest expectations in grabbing 42 victories.
On one hand, it would be fair to note that the competition for the bottom three playoff slots in the Eastern Conference was not one to chronicle with intense fervor. On the other, it is worth pointing out that Orlando was comfortably the fifth-best team in the conference during the second half of the regular season, shining without a gigantic influx of talent midseason.
Part of the team’s success can (and should) be attributed to the steady hand of Clifford. The veteran head coach arrived with the reputation of someone who could coax quality defense out of sub-optimal talent and, while the Magic do have some intriguing players on that end, headlined by rangy second-year forward Jonathan Isaac, Orlando was able to perform better than the talent would indicate. Fortunately for the organization, Clifford is on track to be on the bench when the 2019-20 season commences but, from a roster standpoint, there is some uncertainty.