TORONTO -- When your first shot of the game hits nothing but air, chances are it's going to be a long afternoon and that's exactly how it turned out for the Toronto Raptors yesterday.
It started with that Andrea Bargnani airball from beyond the arc and ended with a lineup of Will Solomon, Roko Ukic, Nathan Jawai, Jake Voskuhl and Joey Graham finishing up an 113-90 loss to the Orlando Magic.
The only time the Raptors looked in sync all afternoon came during last few seconds of the first quarter and the early minutes of the second, with Dwight Howard on the bench with two fouls.
The Raps took what was a 10-point deficit and whittled it back down to tie even game before Howard returned and the Magic regained their composure.
After that it was all Magic, lead by Howard, whose presence under and around the basket was enough to thwart the Raptors.
In the first half he got rolling with 18 points and nine boards in just over 17 minutes. In the second, when the Raptors started paying more attention to him, the Magic shooters from the outside stepped up and starting raining down threes on the Raps.
"I thought our effort was better, but you look at the teams they beat recently -- the Lakers, the Nuggets, the Cavs, the Spurs -- we thought we had done a pretty decent job at halftime," head coach Jay Triano said. "Dwight had it going and we lean on him a little bit (in the second half) and they start making threes. They beat us on the boards by five, they shoot four percentage points better than us but they shoot 13 threes to our two threes. That was kind of the difference."
Offensively the Raptors struggled from the outset.
Combined, the Raptors starting frontcourt of Chris Bosh and Bargnani was just eight-of-27 from the floor for a combined 23 points. Jose Calderon led Toronto with 16.
Still the Raptors went into the second half just six down.
The third quarter, though, was all Magic as the visitors outscored the Raptors 34-18, lead by Howard and Courtney Lee with nine each.
Howard finished with 29.
Bosh said it was just one of those day where he couldn't make a shot.
"Dwight played very far off me and usually I have the patience to knock those shots down but for some reason today I was in a hurry," Bosh said. "I shouldn't have been like that. I should have taken my time and knocked it down. But I'll keep that in mind for the next time. I know he will sag off me so I'm going to have to make them pay."
Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said that was their strategy but it was more a case of keeping Howard out of foul trouble and in the game than it was to mess Bosh up. Bosh's off night shooting just made the strategy that much better.