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Former Raptor Terrence Ross leads Magic to 113-98 rout of Toronto


TORONTO — Sitting hunched over at his locker, Kyle Lowry scanned the scoring report from Sunday night's loss then brusquely tossed it aside.

The game was definitely one to forget.

Terrence Ross, who once famously scored 51 points in a Raptors jersey, poured in 28 points to lead the Orlando Magic to a 113-98 victory over a sluggish Toronto team missing Kawhi Leonard on Sunday.

Lowry called his former teammate's performance "terrible for us tonight."

"So that part I don't like," Lowry said. "Him being a friend of mine, it's good to see him playing the way he's playing. He's always been a talented player. This is just him getting older. More experience is just going to make him get better at basketball."

Lowry had 19 points and 10 assists to top the Raptors (44-17), who saw their seven-game win streak come to an end. Marc Gasol added 16 points, while Serge Ibaka finished with 14. Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, and Jodie Meeks had 10 apiece.

Leonard sat out the game for load management.

Ross, who was shipped to Orlando in the deal that brought Ibaka to Toronto in February of 2017, came off the bench to score three three-pointers, and shoot 9-for-21. And when the Magic headed for the tunnel after the final whistle, the former Raptor was heard telling a teammate: "That was one of my favourite wins of my career."

He said the team wasn't particularly motivated by Leonard's absence.

"We have a job to do," Ross said. "It didn't matter if they had Vince Carter, Kawhi, DeMar (DeRozan). We had to go and do what we had to do."

Nikola Vucevic added 23 points for the Magic (28-33), who had their way with Toronto from the opening whistle.

The victory wasn't Toronto's worst of the season — but close. The Magic clobbered the Raptors 116-87 in Orlando on Dec. 28.  

Sunday's ugly game was in stark contrast to Toronto's entertaining and emotional 120-117 victory over the San Antonio Spurs two nights earlier in DeMar DeRozan's much-anticipated return to Toronto.

The Raptors shot a pitiful 26 per cent in the first quarter Sunday, and elicited groans from a justifiably cranky Scotiabank Arena crowd when they ended the frame trailing 25-15 to an Orlando team that is 10th in the East and trying to climb into a playoff position.

"It just never really got in a rhythm," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. "I actually thought at the half things were OK. We kind of didn't play very well and hung in there pretty well. . . And then (second half) started the same as it started the first half, and it was just a little rough. We could never really get a rhythm, and they made some big shots every time we thought we were right where we needed to be, and we didn't make very big plays."

Toronto managed to tie it up at 63-63 midway through the third, but the team's burst of energy was shortlived. There was no comeback in the cards, because six minutes later Orlando was back up by 11.

The Raptors trailed 80-71 heading into the fourth, and when Ross calmly drilled a pair of free throws four minutes into the frame, Orlando took a 14-point lead. Back-to-back threes by Vucevic and Jonathan Isaac stretched the Magic's lead to an insurmountable 16 points with 5:21 to play, sending angry Raptors fans streaming to the exits.

"We didn't play hard enough," Lowry said. "Not we didn't play hard, but we just didn't execute. They made a lot of shots, and we took the ball out under the basket a whole lot. They played well."

Nurse emptied his bench in the dying minutes of the losing cause. Some fans booed at the final buzzer. 

The Raptors, who are 13-4 without Leonard, sat their star for load management, believing the Orlando game, sandwiched between San Antonio and an upcoming battle against Boston on Tuesday, according to Nurse, was a good opportunity to get their star some rest.

"I think the intensity of the last one (against San Antonio) and the intensity of possibly the next one (versus Boston)," said Nurse. "We just feel we're in a really good place right now with him. And we just want to make sure we stay there."

While Leonard is averaging 26.9 points and 7.6 rebounds a night, his defensive intensity was sorely missed. The Raptors had none on Sunday. It was glaringly obvious when Ross waltzed in for a dunk early in the fourth quarter.

"He's been so consistent in that role," Orlando coach Steve Clifford said of Ross. "And again, people are loaded up to him, and he's still finding a way to go to his spots, and he's making shots."

Green's meagre five points topped Toronto in an unsightly first quarter that saw Orlando finish the period with a 7-0 run capped by a cutting layup by Canadian Khem Birch.

The Magic stretched their lead to 12 in the second, but Lowry, with 10 points in the quarter, sparked a comeback that pulled Toronto to within a point several times. Orlando went into the halftime break up 53-50.

The Raptors host Boston on Tuesday, then cap their six-game homestand against Portland on Friday before heading to Detroit next Sunday to face the Pistons and former coach Dwane Casey.


Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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