By Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel
11:20 PM EST, January 24, 2013
The Orlando Magic spent too much of Thursday night giving the Toronto Raptors easy scoring opportunities.
Except when the Magic smothered DeMar DeRozan on the final play of regulation.
And then DeRozan hit the shot anyway.
DeRozan swished a contested fadeaway jumper from 21 feet as time expired to lift the Raptors to a stunning 97-95 win at Amway Center.
"I just think the basketball gods are against us right now," J.J. Redick said. "They're turning their backs on us, and we need to get back in their good graces."
DeRozan, sprinting to his left, caught a pass from Jose Calderon at the top of the key with 3.0 seconds remaining. He dribbled toward the left sideline, with Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo chasing him. DeRozan released the ball on the run as Davis held his left hand in DeRozan's face, and DeRozan nearly fell into the Magic's bench as his high-arcing shot went in.
"A part of basketball," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "Great shot."
But plenty of easy shots preceded DeRozan's final heave.
The Raptors made 50 percent of their attempts and also went 15-for-19 from the free-throw line as the Magic's defensive woes continued.
Simply put: not good enough.
"I'm never a believer in one play deciding the outcome of a game," Afflalo said. "I kind of lost that theory a long time ago."
The Magic lost for the 15th time in their last 17 games.
They also lost for the ninth consecutive time to an opponent with a losing record.
"It gets frustrating," said backup combo guard E'Twaun Moore.
"I won't say it's discouraging. I mean, we've still got our spirit up high."
The Magic trailed by nine points at the start of the fourth quarter, and Vaughn surrounded Davis with four perimeter players for almost the entire period in an attempt to close the gap.
Seven-foot center Nik Vucevic, who scored 19 points and collected 14 rebounds, both team highs, didn't play at all in the quarter.
The tactic worked.
Redick hit a 3-pointer as he was fouled with 53.1 seconds left and then hit the free throw to tie the score 93-93.
After DeRozan hit a stepback jumper from 12 feet to regain the lead for Toronto, Moore grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a short jumper to tie the score again with 20.9 seconds remaining.
That set the stage for DeRozan's final shot.
"Usually we run it to my right," DeRozan said of the final play. "But that is the first time we ran it going to my left. I knew if I got a good shot off I had a chance of it going in."
DeRozan scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter.
"Down the stretch, everybody's questioned our toughness and how tough we are," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "I've seen resolve and toughness the last couple weeks. And for anybody who doesn't feel like we're in this to win, they are totally wrong."
The Raptors (16-27) celebrated their win with hugs all around.
The Magic (14-28) walked off the court as their fans fell silent.
Six Magic players scored in double figures, but the team couldn't overcome its defensive shortcomings.
Or DeRozan's final shot.
"I didn't know how he got it off," Redick said.
With the loss, the Magic fell to 3-14 in games decided by six points or less.
As Redick spoke to reporters in the Magic's nearly empty locker room, Davis chimed in and told him not to worry, that things were about to turn around soon.
It's difficult to envision things getting much worse than this.
"Soon those games are going to come back to us," Davis said later. "I don't know when and where, but it's going to come before the season's over."