The Toronto Raptors harmed their lottery chances by earning a hard-fought win against the Orlando Magic on Sunday evening. The HQ's Sasha Kalra was in attendance and was pleasantly surprised by the team effort.
The same Sacramento Kings that the Toronto Raptors are jockeying with for position in regards to the upcoming draft lottery. With a loss against an injury-riddled Magic team the Raptors had a golden opportunity to bridge a wider gap between both squads.
Instead they decided to put in a surprisingly complete performance and beat the Magic for the second time this season, albeit in less dramatic circumstances. Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani both missed out on this one and another young starting lineup was deployed by Jay Triano.
James Johnson spent the 1st quarter taking jump shot after jump shot but he eventually calmed down, not that any fans would notice. They were too busy letting former Raptor Hedo Turkoglu know what they think of him and there were constant jeers coming from all sections of the crowd during the game's intervals. Jerryd Bayelss stepped into the starting lineup and filled in admirably. He finished with 23 points and 8 assists but his night will be remembered by sinking some clutch free throws at the end of the game.
A 102 to 98 win by Toronto over an undermanned, yet still very capable Magic squad.
Most teams that come into the Air Canada Center with a player that receives the full attention of the crowd are able to use that energy to come together with a "backs against the wall" mentality. We've seen it countless times in the past and the average fan would expect nothing but that trend to continue. One problem though, the Magic didn't get the memo. They were coasting throughout the game and seemed almost scared to make the physical sacrifices and "hustle plays" necessary to win the game. Maybe it was fear of injury or maybe it was the looming playoffs, but Orlando continues to play this way there might not be much more basketball left to be played.
There was a point midway through the 3rd quarter when Franchise, myself, and the two winners of our Holiday Ball Contest (a big thanks to LG for the ticket hook-up by the way) began to discuss whether or not Andrea Bargnani's presence was being missed in this game. We began to list the top teams in the NBA and debated whether or not Bargnani would be able to start on any of those teams at the 4 or 5. During that conversation there was a stretch where Ryan Anderson entered the game and nailed a couple of 3 pointers and set a couple of decent screens. It got us thinking about the similarities between the two players and what Andrea's role might be like on a contender.
Ah, the things that you end up talking about during a 21 win season. A season that has been full of ups and downs with a larger dose of the latter. A season in which the dedicated fan base starts talking up the team's lottery chances in January. A season that hasn't given us much of a reason to stand up and cheer. But that's exactly what last night gave us, a rare moment to cheer.
And damn it felt good.