Jose Calderon's 18 assists were a big reason why the Raptors dropped the Magic on Sunday afternoon - Andy Lyons
The Toronto Raptors came through when it counted Sunday against the Orlando Magic, and thanks to some great performances from Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson, were able to come away with a much-needed victory at the ACC yesterday afternoon.
Coming off of a challenging outing against the Celtics on Saturday, the Raptors knew going in that they would need a hot start if they were going to have any chance against the 3-5 Magic.
A hot start, though, is exactly what the team got off to as Jose Calderon set the tempo for his team early, scoring 7 points and adding 3 assists in the opening quarter. Bargnani and DeRozan were also very effective, scoring 9 and 11 points respectively, leading the Raptors to a 32-22 lead after the first frame.
Defensively, the team looked much better in that first quarter. This is something that coach Casey believes is a big reason why they were able come away with that lead and, is something they need to continue to do going forward.
"I think we established ourselves defensively which allowed us to get out and keep pace and run the floor," Casey said after the game. "If we're not a defensive team, we gotta hang our hat on something and thats what we gotta do. That's going to be our focus here on out"
The bench held their own in the second quarter - Orlando took that quarter 19-17 - but the Magic answered in the third, outscoring the Raptors 28-18 thanks in part to a 7-point quarter by DeQuan Jones.
In the fourth, things got exciting.
The Magic lead by two to open the fourth, but the Raptors came roaring back thanks to some great passing by Jose Calderon who would net 10 assists in the quarter and finish the game with 18 total assists - one shy of his career-high.
"He's been great. What'd he have 18 assists? he must have seen Rondo yesterday have 20. Trying to catch him. He did a heck of a job" Casey quipped about his point guard's assist total.
Likewise, Amir Johnson was absolutely crucial for the Raptors Sunday afternoon. He made play after play in that fourth quarter including a three-point shot with 7:25 left in the game that gave the Raptors a 5-point lead and represented a huge momentum swing from which the Raptors would never look back.
Johnson scored 14 points in that final quarter and provided the energy that the Raptors desperately needed after playing what has surely been an exhausting schedule for the squad.
Not enough can be said about the chemistry between Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson. It has been years in the making and was on full display Sunday as the duo carried the team in the fourth quarter.
Not to be outdone, DeMar DeRozan was again sensational. DeRozan finished the game with an efficient 20 points on 8 of 16 shooting and tied a career-high with 9 rebounds.
DeMar's rebounding has been a big part of his game that he has added rather consistently this season.
"Just trying to do everything, not trying to be a one-dimensional player. Just trying to do it all," DeRozan told reporters about his rebounding efforts after the game.
This was as close to a must-win game as a team can have this early in the season and to their credit, the Raptors were able to lock in at key moments in the game and come away with the victory.
The schedule will not get any easier for the club as they will travel to Philadelphia on Tuesday and then to Charlotte on Wednesday for yet another set of back-to-back games.