Well that was… Weird. Prior to tonight the Raptors had gone through a bit of a bumpy stretch. They’d struggled to hit their outside shots. Their interior defence had often been lacking with the injuries to their frontcourt. Their ball movement had often grown stagnant with Kyle Lowry on the sidelines. They’d played a lot of close games, winning some and losing some. They hadn’t been the steamroller they were to start the year. They also hadn’t been whatever the hell they were tonight, a night in which they completely came apart in a 116-87 loss to the Orlando Magic.
Tonight, the Raptors missed their midrange shots. They missed their hook shots, they missed their floaters, and they missed their layups. They missed in just about every way imaginable and did so with incredible regularity. Nearly everyone got in on the act. Nine Raptors ended the night shooting worse than 50%. As a team they shot under 30% from the floor. The only thing shot they hit with any efficiency was the three-ball, as they ended 12-of-34 from behind the arc.
Things actually started out okay. The Raptors made their threes in the first quarter, shooting 5/8 from distance. Serge Ibaka flashed some surprising playmaking, diming up Fred VanVleet and Danny Green. Pascal Siakam struggled, but Kawhi Leonard was hot, scoring ten in the frame. The only concern was that defense already looked a little porous, especially on the interior, as the Magic scored 18 of their 25 first quarter points in the paint.
Then the second started. And from there on there were exactly zero signs of life from the Raptors. Predictably, it started with the bench unit. They’ve struggled the entire year, struggles compounded tonight by the fact they’re missing a pair of key pieces in Jonas Valanciunas and Norman Powell. The replacements for Valanciunas and Powell struggled immensely, with Greg Monroe and C.J. Miles combining to go 1-of-13 from the field with 7 points in the game. By the time the bench got out of the the game midway through the second, the 4 point lead the Raptors had built in the 1st had flipped to a 3 point deficit.
It’s typical for the Raptors starters to come in and right the ship after the bench gives up a lead though, so it seemed like nothing was out of the ordinary. Yet, when the starters came back in the Magic’s hold on the game only grew. Kawhi Leonard went ice cold from midrange. Pascal Siakam remained ice cold from everywhere. Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka struggled to finish around the basket. Danny Green was out of the game with foul trouble and C.J. Miles wasn’t pitching in. By the time half time rolled around the Magic’s lead had ballooned to 9.
Still though, we saw the Raptors struggle in the first half only to surge back in the second half just one game ago against Miami, so nothing was really out of the ordinary just yet.
The third quarter was when it all came apart. The Raptors made a grand total of 4 field goals in the 3rd, and they made just 1 field goal from outside of the restricted area. On the other end the Magic heated up from distance and paraded to the free throw line. The 9 point deficit became an insurmountable 29, as the Raptors were outscored 35 to 15 in the frame. The entire 4th quarter was garbage time.
It’s hard to point to injuries or any individual performances in a game like this. Yes, Nikola Vucevic went off, scoring 30 points on just 17 shots, while adding 20 rebounds and 8 assists. Would it have helped to have Jonas Valanciunas to contain him on the glass and in the post? Yes. Would that have turned a 29 point loss into a win? No.
Pascal Siakam struggled, as he finished 1 of 8 from the floor with only 4 points, but a better night from him wouldn’t have turned this into a win, not on a night where Delon Wright was 2-for-8, Fred VanVleet was 3-for-12, Danny Green was 1-for-6 and Kawhi Leonard was 7-for-19. The bottom fell out for everyone, all at once. Perhaps the only Raptor to play meaningful minutes who can be absolved of blame is Serge Ibaka, who finished with a relatively efficient 17 points to go along with 4 blocks and 8 rebounds.
If there’s any silver lining to draw from this game, it’s that it only counts as one loss in the loss column. The Raptors haven’t been great recently, but they’ve never looked as bad as they did tonight either. Hopefully they got it all out of their system.