Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) heads up court during first half NBA basketball playoff action against the Orlando Magic in Toronto on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Raptors off to 2nd round after 115-96 win over Magic

Toronto beats Orlando in 5 games in opening-round NBA playoff series

TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors dispatched the Orlando Magic in record time, checking the first box of what the team hopes is a long playoff run.

Kawhi Leonard scored 27 points as Toronto throttled Orlando 115-96 on Tuesday, winning an opening-round playoff series in five games for the first time in franchise history.

Toronto will face the winner of the Philadelphia and Brooklyn series. The Sixers took a 3-1 lead into Tuesday’s game.

Pascal Siakam scored 24 points for the Raptors, who led by as many as 37 points in the dying minutes. Kyle Lowry had 12 of his 14 points in the first quarter and doled out nine assists, Norman Powell chipped in with 11 points and Serge Ibaka finished with 10.

D.J. Augustin led Orlando with 15 points.

Lowry and the Raptors clearly had no interest in flying back to Orlando for a Game 6. Coming off a pair of victories on the Magic’s Amway Center court, Lowry scored the team’s first nine points and the Raptors pounced on the overmatched Magic from the opening tip. The Magic were virtual spectators as Toronto sprinted to a 24-point lead late in the first quarter. The team’s 19 assists on 23 made field goals in the first half was a post-season franchise record.

Orlando, which was making its first post-season appearance in seven years, missed its first 11 three-point attempts before Evan Fournier finally connected more than four minutes into the second quarter.

The Raptors led by 31 points in the third and cruised into the fourth up 99-70 in front a soldout Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,800 fans that included Toronto rapper Drake — putting a dent in the “Drake curse” theory.

The crowd serenaded Leonard with chants of “M-V-P!” when the Raptors star was subbed out of the game with just under eight minutes to play.

Coach Nick Nurse went deep into his bench the rest of the way.

Lowry and Fred VanVleet (with 10) combined for 19 assists, as the Raptors had 34 assists to Orlando’s 20. Toronto also held Orlando to 26.5 per cent shooting from three-point range.

Nurse said the key to Tuesday’s game was to lock down on the defensive end from the get-go.

“I think the main emphasis tonight is to try to do it over the course of the 48 minutes,” he said.

READ MORE: NBA reminding teams to keep cool when hot with referees

On a big night for Toronto sports, the Maple Leafs were facing Boston in a do-or-die game. The score was periodically flashed on the Jumbotron, and most of the TV screens on the concourse were dialled into the Leafs game.

With big dreams of reaching the NBA Finals, the Raptors now have a precious few days of breathing room — and one less trip to Orlando — until the Eastern Conference semifinals begin this weekend. And with a roster rife with injuries, plus Leonard’s load management, in the regular-season, they could use it.

In Toronto’s most successful post-season in 2016, the Raptors needed seven games to knock off both Indiana and Miami before facing a rested LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference final.

Orlando upset Toronto to win the opener before the Raptors roared back to capture the next three, including a pair of victories at Orlando’s Amway Center.

Lowry, who’d taken grief for scoring zero points in Game 1, could barely miss in the first quarter on Tuesday, shooting an efficient 5-for-6 from the field. The Raptors shot 63 per cent from three-point range, while Orlando missed all seven of their long-range attempt. Toronto led 35-19 to start the second.

The Magic made a run against Toronto’s bench to pull to within 11 points early in the second, but it was shortlived, and the Raptors took a 67-47 advantage into the halftime break.

Toronto will host Games 1 and 2 of the next round.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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