Still on a high from the morning's Olympic hockey gold medal win, Canadian fans who tuned into last night's match between the Toronto Raptors and struggling Orlando Magic, did not come away disappointed. The Dinos walked away with a 105 - 90 win and continued to put a stranglehold on a playoff spot in the East.
It wasn't quite a fair fight either. With the now 17-41 Magic sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the ball club continued to take steps back as over the weekend they agreed on the buyout of forward Glen Davis (he would later sign with the Los Angeles Clippers after clearing waivers Sunday afternoon).
And as if things couldn't get worse for the Magic, team MVP Arron Affalo did not play against the Raps as he suffered a sprained right ankle in a game against the New York Knicks Friday night.
However from the start it took Toronto a while to get their momentum going and the first quarter was dreadfully slow.
On the plus side early, Amir Johnson was all over the court for the Raps as he grabbed five rebounds and scored four points with about 8 minutes of playing time. Terrence Ross also looked for his shot early with some success however despite their contributions on both ends, Orlando was able to go on an early 8-0 run thanks to the efforts of Tobias Harris who scored 10 of the 12 points early Magic points.
Despite the Raptors leading 19-14 at the end of the first quarter, they committed seven turnovers. In their previous game against the Cavaliers, the Raps had only nine total turnovers for the whole match. Seven in one quarter was not exactly a recipe for success.
For a team that previously ranked eighth in turnover ratio this was a departure from the norm and on top of the turnover issues early, they were also only shooting 35.0 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three-point land and had four team fouls. And yet despite all of this, Toronto was still somehow leading.
The turnovers continued to increase in the second quarter however Toronto's shooting percentage was improving and by halftime, the Dinos led by a slim 44 to 41 margin. Greivis Vasquez helped give the club a push scoring two consecutive three-pointers, and .the Raps were controlling the boards as they had 27 rebounds.
As Raptors' analyst Leo Rautins jokingly tweeted on Twitter, maybe the Raps were up early watching the Canadian Men's hockey team win gold in Sochi, napped late and were just sluggish thanks to that. In any case the Raps came into the third quarter refreshed and awakened.
While Ross started the quarter hitting a dagger three-pointer and DeMar DeRozan got his offense going, it was Kyle Lowry who really stole this quarter. He hit long-range bomb after long-range bomb and also got into the paint with ease. In the 12 minutes he played in the third, Lowry was perfect 5 of 5 from the field, perfect 4 of 4 from three-point land, and scored 17 points, including a buzzer beater ‘all the way from Brampton to end the quarter. Ross was able to score 8 points and dish out two assists and at the end of three, Lowry had 21 total points, DeMar had 16, Amir had 12 and Ross had 14. Toronto was also shooting 54 percent from the field, 64 percent from three and 81 percent from the free throw line, and started to put some distance between themselves and the Magic despite still having issues with turnovers.
In the final quarter, Lowry continued his torrid play as he scored Toronto's first bucket off the glass and had seven more in the period. DeRozan kept things going as well scoring eight points in the quarter and there was even a rare Nando De Colo sighting, his first minutes with the Raptors!
Despite the slow start to this game, the fourth continued to build on Toronto's excellent third quarter, and the Magic eventually faded into the background. While both teams scored 25 points, the Raps shot 46.7 percent from the field and 73.3 percent from the free throw line, and simply out-gunned the Magic. The Raps got their sixth straight win against the Magic thanks to said final score of 105 - 90, and moved six games above .500. Toronto now travels to Cleveland to face the Cavs for the third time this season.
The only big negative from this one was the turnover issue as Toronto finished with 24. This represented a season-high for Toronto whose previous most was 21 set on Nov. 29 against the Miami Heat.
Extra games notes:
- While Amir did twist his ankle in the third quarter colliding with Victor Oladpio on a screen, according to TSN's Josh Lewenberg, Dwane Casey said Johnson's ankle was kicked and it wasn't a major concern. As we recall, Johnson sat out the games on February 10th and on the 12th due to ankle issues before making a return off the bench then proceeding to return to the starting lineup against the Cavs last Friday.
- Only the Raptors would get 24 turnovers and still win against the Magic.
- Nando De Colo played 4.53 minutes!
- Orlando seems to be on the right path to the Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker sweepstakes in the 2014 draft.
- DeMar DeRozan collected his 205th assists of the season. A new career high.
- According to NBA.com, the Raps are able to get 59.4 percent of total rebounds, the most vs.any opponent in the league.