Nikola Vucevic helps Magic edge Raptors 114-113 in Toronto

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TORONTO (AP) Nikola Vucevic had 25 points and 10 rebounds, D.J. Augustin added 21 points off the bench and the Orlando Magic beat the Toronto Raptors 114-113 on Sunday night.

Vucevic, who also had five assists, keyed a late-second quarter surge that saw the Magic (19-30) close the first half on a 21-2 run to take the lead for good in snapping a three-game losing streak.

It was just Orlando’s second win in the past 16 games against Toronto.

Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 33 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Fellow All-Star DeMar DeRozan, Toronto’s leading scorer, returned to the lineup after missing three games with a sprained right ankle and had 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

It was Toronto’s sixth loss in the past seven games.

Lowry hit a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left to cut Orlando’s lead to two, but Vucevic sank a pair of free throws to make it a four-point game before Lowry hit another 3 with just 0.5 seconds remaining.

The Magic inbounded the ball to seal the victory.

Orlando led 100-85 with little more than 6 minutes remaining. Toronto then went on a 16-5 run over the next four-plus minutes to make it close.

DeRozan’s jumper cut the Magic lead to 105-101 with 2:20 to go, but Jeff Green scored the next five points, including a 3, to give Orlando some breathing room.

The Magic led 83-78 going into the fourth quarter.

Orlando was up by as many as 11 points at the midpoint of the third quarter before the Raptors cut into it with an 11-5 run over a two-minute stretch. Toronto had a chance to tie the game in the final minute of the third but couldn’t hit the shot.

Orlando’s shooting cooled off in the third as the Magic hit 9 for 20 from the field. But the Raptors continued to struggle, hitting just 8 for 23 from the field in the period.

Jonas Valanciunas hit a foul shot with 6:20 to go in the half to give the Raptors a 49-39 edge. Orlando then scored 19 straight points with Vucevic leading the surge, hitting 3 for 3 from the field, including a pair from beyond the arc.

The Magic were 11 for 17 (65 percent) in the second quarter, including 4 of 6 on 3s. The Raptors didn’t make a field goal over the final 6:52 of the first half and were just 5 for 16 in the second quarter.


Magic: Former Raptor Bismack Biyombo, a fan favorite when he played in Toronto last season, received a loud ovation when he checked into the game late in the first quarter. . Orlando scored 14 points off 10 Toronto turnovers in the first half. . The Magic had a 38-30 edge on points in the paint.

Raptors: DeRozan’s two free throws were the only points Toronto scored in the final 6:20 of the second quarter, missing eight straight field goal attempts. . Lowry has scored at least 24 points six of the past seven games. . Toronto is 17-15 when allowing 100 or more points.


Magic: Orlando wraps up a three-game road trip Monday night in Minnesota. The Timberwolves won the first meeting of the season 123-107 in Orlando on Nov. 9.

Raptors: Toronto closes out a three-game homestand on Tuesday against New Orleans. The Raptors have defeated the Pelicans in 10 of the past 13 meetings.

League’s Last Two Minute Report backs referees (mostly) in Raptors/Thunder game

Associated Press
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Anyone who watched the Thunder’s win over the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto — especially the final few minutes — thought it was not referee Marc Davis and crew’s finest hour. There were missed calls and three-straight ejections of Raptors players, which all seemed rather hair-trigger (especially coach Dwane Casey, who was tossed for something a fan behind him said).

The NBA’s Last Two Minute report doesn’t see it that way — it says the referees nailed it.

According to the report, there was only one missed call in the final two minutes: Carmelo Anthony held Pascal Siakam as a pass came to him with 11.7 seconds left, and that should have been called.

What about the play that set DeMar DeRozan off and ultimately got him ejected, the drive to the basket with 33 seconds left (and the Raptors down two) where DeRozan thought Corey Brewer fouled him? The report said that was a good no call:

DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive and Brewer (OKC) moves laterally in his path and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players attempt to perform normal basketball moves….

RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

(I didn’t see it that way, I think the contact was more than incidental, and to me looking at the replay Brewer catches some wrist and impedes the shot in a way that was not legal. Just my two cents.)

The report does not cover the ejections, which are reviewed by league operations but not part of this report.

Three thoughts out of all this:

1) Raptors fans/management/players have every right to feel the calls went against them in this game. As for calls always going against them — as DeRozan complained about after the game — 29 other teams and fan bases are convinced the officials have it out for them, too. I never bought that.

2) The Raptors didn’t lose this game solely because of the officiating. Russell Westbrook was clutch down the stretch, the Thunder were part of it, and the Raptors had other issues, too (Serge Ibaka had a rough game, for example).

3) This loss also does not say a thing about the Raptors in the postseason (even if they went a little too much isolation at the end) — this was their third game in four days, they looked tired and flat at the end. That will not be the case in the playoffs.

Rumor: Injured Jimmy Butler wore his jersey under shirt and jacket on Timberwolves bench

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King
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Jimmy Butler‘s competitive fire burns hot.

How hot?

Butler is chomping at the bit to return from his knee injury. He sat on the Timberwolves’ bench during their loss to the Rockets last night wearing what appeared to be typical attire for a sidelined player. But dig deeper, and…

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This story is too good to check out.

Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers lineup Monday vs. Bucks

Associated Press
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The last time Kevin Love suited up for the Cavaliers, it was still January and Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder were still on the team.

That is about to change tonight — Love will return from a fractured hand and play for the Cavaliers, but on a minutes restriction to start, interim coach Larry Drew confirmed.

Cleveland needs Love back. The Cavaliers went 11-9 without him in this stretch (and 6-7 since the All-Star break) with an offense that has still been top 10 in the NBA but a defense that is holding them back. The Cavaliers’ defense is just not on the same page right now, and the more time the regular rotations guys get to play together, the better they should be before the playoffs start.

As Love rounds into form, the Cavaliers have to figure out their rotations. Does Love start Love next to Larry Nance Jr., or does Nance come off the bench again? Probably the latter, but the Cavaliers will toy with the rotations (and do that more when Tristan Thompson returns).

Former NBA All-Star Steve Francis cited for public intoxication

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What happened to Steve Francis [after his playing days]? I was drinking heavily, is what happened. And that can be just as bad (as drug use). In the span of a few years I lost basketball, I lost my whole identity, and I lost my stepfather, who committed suicide.”
—Steve Francis, writing in the Players’ Tribune earlier this month, about his journey from selling crack to the NBA, and what happened after.

Addiction, once it’s got you, never goes away. The fight to stay sober/clean is a new one every day.

Steve Francis was cited for public intoxication in Burbank, Calif., after an incident at a hotel bar, according to TMZ (since confirmed by other reports).

Francis, 41, was arrested around 11:40 PM after police were called for a disturbance between two men at a hotel in Burbank.

Law enforcement sources tell us when cops arrived, Francis was intoxicated. He was arrested for being drunk in public.

Francis was transported to jail … before being given a citation and released around 7 AM Monday morning.

Francis denied in the Players’ Tribune article rumors he had a drug problem, but he owned up to drinking.