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Nikola Vucevic, Magic look to ramp up offense in Game 2 versus Raptors

The Orlando Magic’s D.J. Augustin, Nikola Vucevic and coach Steve Clifford talk about Augustin's  winning shot in Toronto in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs in Toronto. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic caught the ball in the post, with Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol bodied up against him. Vucevic turned to his left, only to have his progress cut off by Gasol.

Vucevic spun back to his right and put up a short hook shot, perhaps a little quicker than he wanted. The shot hit the front of the rim, then bounced off the backboard and away from the cylinder.

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The missed shot symbolized the game offensively for Vucevic.

The all-star center scored just 11 points (nine below his season average) on 3-for-14 shooting as the Magic beat the Raptors 104-101 Saturday in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

The 21.4-percent shooting performance was the lowest of the season for Vucevic, who didn't score until the 6:50 mark of the second quarter. His 11 points marked his lowest scoring output since Dec. 23 when he finished with just eight points against the Heat.

And yet, the Magic still prevailed.

Vucevic expects to make some adjustments and bounce back.

"I struggled a little bit offensively last night, so I'm just going over the next few days to look at ways for me to maybe get more space, try to attack him [Gasol] a little more, be a little more aggressive, maybe find ways to play off my teammates a little easier," he said Sunday. "I think that can get me going.

"So I need to find other ways to still be effective, and I'm going to do that over the next few days."

Vucevic certainly was effective down the stretch in Game 1 as he played a role in three big plays.

With the Magic trailing 90-86, Vucevic beat the Raptors' double team on him in the post and threw a pass to a wide-open Aaron Gordon in the corner. Gordon knocked down the 3-point attempt.

On the Magic's ensuing possession, Vucevic took a pass from D.J. Augustin off a pick-and-roll and drained a 3-pointer that tied the game at 92-92.

Four possessions later, Vucevic again beat a double-team attempt in the post. He quickly passed to Gordon on the wing, and he fed it to Jonathan Isaac in the corner. Isaac hit the 3-point attempt to put the Magic ahead 97-96.

"We had two open 3s off the double team on Vooch in the last like six minutes. The Aaron Gordon 3 and then the JI 3 were both from Vooch in the post," Magic coach Steve Clifford said Sunday. "Good passes. You know, one directly to the corner, and the other one diagonally and then Aaron touched it to the corner to JI. So I thought we did a good job with that."

The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi and Roy Parry break down the Orlando Magic's win over the Toronto Raptors during the first round of the NBA Playoffs in Toronto Saturday. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

Clifford is optimistic Vucevic will play a bigger scoring role as the series moves forward. He said the Magic will look to get Vucevic the ball in positions where he can be more effective, like they did in the latter part of the fourth quarter on Saturday.

"The other thing last night watching it, there's things that I have to do better to help him, too. He didn't catch the ball last night in a lot of like, say, advantage situations," Clifford said. "Part of that is the play calling, too, so I've got to help him with that, too."

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Vucevic wasn't the only Magic player affected by the Raptors' defense. They also were effective in keeping reserve swingman Terrence Ross from getting into a rhythm, limiting his touches on the perimeter. Ross wound up with 10 points, getting five of those from the free-throw line, on just 2-of-11 shooting.

Clifford applauded Ross for contributing in other ways.

"He made a ton of really good play to his teammates," Clifford said. "There's nothing else you can do. I mean that's basketball. If they're going to commit to taking the ball away from him, then the smart thing to do is what he did and pass the ball to open teammates."

Overall, the Magic shot just 40 percent from the field, but they were buoyed by going 14-for-29 from the 3-point line and 18-for-20 from the free-throw line.

The Magic outscored the Raptors by a combined 60-45 in those two categories.

Clifford said the Magic must play better offensively in Game 2, and that starts with sticking to what they do well: good ball movement, avoiding too many one-pass or no-pass possessions and making sure the ball gets into the paint.

"We had two stretches last night in the game where we just start going [too fast], and against this team that's not going to work. They're too good defensively," Clifford said. "We're like any other team. We have a way to play. We're a ball-movement team. We don't have breakdown guys, and when we move the ball I think you can see, and the ball's hitting the paint and we're inside-out we're very good."

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