Magic end Raptors’ winning streak at 7 with 113-98 victory

RICHARD LAUTENS  TORONTO STAR

RICHARD LAUTENS TORONTO STAR

The Toronto Raptors slumped to a shock 113-98 loss to the Orlando Magic without Kawhi Leonard in the National Basketball Association on Sunday.

To start the day, the Magic upset the Raptors in Toronto to pick up a big win in their quest for the playoffs. They elected to hold out Leonard against Orlando for rest and "load management".

Too bad for the paying customers.

The Magic come into the game hot as winners of seven of their last 10 games. "When he scores for us like that, it just gives us a huge advantage".

"And it was just a little rough and they made some big shots". The 28-year-old wing totalled 28 points and nine rebounds off the bench to lead all scorers. Nikola Vucevic chipped in 23 points and 12 rebounds.

He said the team wasn't particularly motivated by Leonard's absence. "It didn't matter if they had Vince Carter, Kawhi, DeMar (DeRozan)". "We had to do what we had to do". The 26-year-old Frenchman is averaging 15.1 points per game and is 5-for-9 on shots to tie the game or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime this season, one of which came against Toronto on November 20.

Albot beats Evans to become first Moldovan to win ATP title
The 82nd-ranked Albot is expected to climb to a new career-high close to No. 50. Albot's nickname is "The Machine", and he certainly looked the part on Sunday.

The Raptors are 13-4 this season with their best player on the sidelines, an indication of Toronto's roster depth.

"I think the intensity of the last one and the intensity of possibly the next one [Tuesday against Boston]", Nurse explained. "We just feel we're in a really good place right now with him".

"Before, I wasn't playing, so now that we've been on a winning streak, I'm just happy and doing my part and just have to be ready and stay prepared and help out the team". The Magic clobbered the Raptors 116-87 in Orlando on December 28. Orlando has done it three times in its past four victories. And that was with Leonard in the lineup.

Despite not playing well, Toronto only trailed 80-71 heading into the fourth quarter but it could never get its offence jumpstarted.

The former NBA Finals MVP is averaging career highs with 29.6 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting close to 50 percent from the field, and he may gather some consideration for the league's Most Valuable Player award at season's end. Smith had 13 assists and Knox had 10 rebounds, and rookie Mitchell Robinson finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

"Unfortunately we lost Mo, but my opportunity is here and I try to make the best of it", Birch said. "A lot has to do with chemistry on the court, communication and being on the same page".

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