Published March 16, 2024

Paolo Banchero leads red-hot Orlando Magic past undermanned Toronto Raptors 113-103

Raptors - CP

By John Chidley-Hill

Gary Trent Jr. has seen it all over his seven NBA seasons. Now the 25-year-old suddenly finds himself in a new role as a mentor on a young Toronto Raptors team.

Trent had a season-high 31 points after he matched a season-best seven three-pointers as the undermanned Raptors fell to the Orlando Magic 113-103 on Friday. Trent is the longest-tenured player active on a Toronto roster racked with injuries and other unavailable players.

"There's no part of the game I think I haven't touched, I haven't been a part of," said Trent, who noted that in his time with the Portland Trail Blazers and Raptors he has been pinned to the bench, a deep reserve, a regular in the rotation, and a starter. "So I feel like that just helps me know how to handle things and how to go about things.

"Again, just all those different situations I've been in my whole career."

Toronto forward RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., missed the game as he mourned the death of his younger brother. His absence added to the roster woes of a Raptors squad that was already missing all-star forward Scottie Barnes (broken hand) and centre Jakob Poeltl (torn hand ligament) from its starting lineup. Reserve centre Chris Boucher (partially torn MCL) of Montreal was also unavailable.

Between those absences and a series of trades that completely revamped the roster, Trent has become the veteran voice in the Raptors' locker-room. Rookie Gradey Dick even consulted him on if he should get a particular tattoo.

"I just continue to work and control what I can control, try to be a good teammate," said Trent. "Try to be a good person, a good player, go out there and just try to help to contribute toward winning as much as I can.

"It's really my only main focus that I really had."

Paolo Banchero finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as Orlando (39-28) won for the seventh time in nine games. Franz Wagner added 19 points and seven boards.

Immanuel Quickley had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists as Toronto (23-44) lost its sixth straight game. Jordan Nwora came off the Raptors bench with 14 points.

"It's definitely easier to play when you get in consistent minutes night in and night out. But it’s just part of the NBA," said Nwora, who was traded to Toronto on Jan. 17. "Just got to make the most of every opportunity, however it comes.

"Obviously, it's not ideal right now with guys being injured. You want to get those minutes with a full, healthy team, so it is what it is."

A moment of silence was observed before the game to honour 20-year-old Nathan Tyler Barrett, the brother of RJ Barrett and son of Rowan Barrett, the general manager of Canada's national men's basketball team. The Raptors and Canada Basketball jointly announced that the younger Barrett died on Tuesday.

RJ Barrett missed Wednesday's 113-104 loss in Detroit and Friday's game to be with his family. Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic said there was no timetable for the older Barrett's return.

"He's going to take as much time as is needed to process this hard time for him and for his family," said Rajakovic before the game. "We're in touch with RJ and his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them. We're hoping that they can feel our support and love."

Although the Raptors held a 27-24 lead after one quarter, Orlando started to chip away at it in the second.

Wagner made a driving lineup with 5:30 left in the second to take a one-point lead. He scored eight points in the quarter as the Magic took a 50-48 lead into intermission.

Nwora drilled a 26-foot three-pointer with 4:26 left in the third to give Toronto a 69-67 lead with 4:26 left. Nwora bounced back down the court, egging on the sold-out Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,800, as the Raptors claimed their first lead since the second quarter.

Orlando fired back with a 14-0 run for its biggest lead of the game. Banchero had five of those points and assisted on three other field goals. The Magic led 84-73 heading into the final quarter. Toronto narrowed that gap to seven in the fourth but came no closer.

UP NEXT — The Raptors finish out their home-and-home series in Orlando on Sunday evening.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2024

Banner image via The Canadian Press

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