Raptors bounced from playoffs by Magic
The Orlando Magic needed only five games to make the Toronto Raptors disappear.
Dwight Howard poured in 21 points and pulled down 21 rebounds as the Magic prevailed 102-92 over the Raptors in front of 17,519 fans at Amway Arena on Monday night, clinching their Eastern Conference quarter-final in five games.
It was Howard's third 20-20 outing in the series.
"He is a phenom," Raptors centre Chris Bosh said. "He is the best centre in the league.
"He is probably the strongest guy in the league and he knows how to use his body. It doesn't surprise me at all."
"There was a different demeanour from him," Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Dwight is a fun-loving guy and he likes to fool around.
"There were a lot of times during the year, not bad, but a lot of times during the year where I had to try to bring him back to being serious. [But] I didn't have to say one word - from the start of preparation for this series all the way through."
Both Toronto and Orlando were eliminated in the opening round last spring, with the Raptors losing 4-2 to the New Jersey Nets and the Magic getting swept 4-0 by the Detroit Pistons.
"We worked extremely hard to get to the level that we have played this year," Howard said.
Jameer Nelson scored 19 points, and Rashard Lewis contributed 18 points and 13 rebounds as the third-seeded Magic reached the second round for the first time since sweeping the Pistons in 1996.
"It is just an unbelievable feeling," Howard said. "We did something I feel that hasn't been done here in a while."
Maurice Evans and Hedo Turkoglu had 12 points apiece, followed by Keith Bogans with 11.
Bosh countered with 16 points and nine rebounds for the sixth-ranked Raptors, who fell to 0-3 in seven-game series.
"I know we're young," Bosh said. "But I have a philosophy — you have to do it now."
Carlos Delfino and T.J. Ford each scored 14 points, while Jason Kapono had 13 points as Toronto's reserves outscored Orlando's bench 39-20 in the contest and 188-95 in the series.
Jose Calderon tallied 12 points and Anthony Parker provided 11, but it wasn't near enough as Toronto extended its road losing streak in the playoffs to nine.
"We knew in the regular season that every time we played the Orlando Magic that you have got to score," Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell said. "And we just could not score, we just didn't make enough shots."
Shaky start for Raptors
As it had all series, Toronto fell behind early and, when Turkoglu stripped Ford of the ball and fed Evans for a one-handed layin that put the Magic up 10-2, Mitchell was forced to take a time out to settle the team.
The move seemed to work as the Raptors rallied to tie it at 14-14 on rookie Jamario Moon's three-point basket.
Calderon and Delfino set the pace offensively after that, with the latter's trey putting the Raptors ahead 37-30 with seven minutes left to the intermission.
Toronto took a 50-49 lead into the break, but the momentum swung the Magic's way in the third quarter.
Howard highlighted the burst with a bullish basket in the final minute that infuriated Bosh, who received a technical foul for arguing that he was elbowed in the face.
Howard knocked down the free throw to complete the three-point play and put Orlando ahead 73-66.
Howard later blocked Delfino's bid for a left-handed layup that would have brought Toronto to within three points with 6:42 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"Dwight is a monster," Kapono said. "And we just didn't get the stops when we needed to in the fourth quarter."
Bosh sparked a 6-0 run with two free throws and a baby hook for the Raptors, but Bogans replied with a three-pointer, Howard had a dunk and Nelson hit a trey to make it 92-82 with 2:57 left.
Bosh responded with a dunk eight seconds later, but Bogans nailed a baseline trey and Nelson drained two free throws for a 97-84 lead with 1:56 on the clock.
"We have depended on the three all year," Bogans said. "It is going to make us or break us [and why] coach just tells us to keep shooting them and not stop."
Parker's three-pointer cut Toronto's deficit to 10 points with 1:21 to go, and Calderon offset Turkoglu's one-handed jam with an uncontested layup to make it 99-89 heading into the final minute.
After Lewis upped it to 101-89 with a pair of free throws, Kapono swished a trey before Nelson completed the scoring with a free throw.
With files from the Canadian Press