There’s not much of worse way to spend your Friday night than watching your favourite team get dismantled by the Orlando Magic. You hope the second quarter was an aberration. You expect a fight in the third. You pray they make it interesting in the fourth...
None of those things happened for the Toronto Raptors on Friday. Is there anything to take away?
A lot will be said about the Raptors shooting woes after this one, deservedly so.
Tonight was the worst 2-point shooting night in Raptors franchise history. 26.2%.— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 29, 2018
But what about the defence? The Raptors gave up 77 points in the second and third quarters combined. If your own shots aren’t falling, you need to be able to get stops, but the Magic seemed to get whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it.
Mostly what they wanted was Nikola Vucevic scoring from the paint — he had 30 points and the Magic scored 52 in the paint. They also had 23 second chance points.
I know Jonas Valanciunas is important but those numbers are a little ridiculous.
Nikola Vucevic is an All-Star
In the HQ Roundtable earlier this week, all three of your panel members had Nikola Vucevic on our Eastern Conference All-Star rosters, and after last night, it was easy to see why.
Nikola Vucevic becomes the ninth #NBA player since 1975-76 to record 30+ points, 20+ rebounds and 8+ assists in a single game (Cousins, Lee, Duncan, Nowtizki, Barkley, English, Abdul-Jabbar, McGinnis).— Orlando Magic PR (@Magic_PR) December 29, 2018
(credit @bball_ref)#PureMagic pic.twitter.com/SSxLeBuw1X
Dude nearly had a 30-20-10! He’s averaging 20-and-12 with 3.7 assists, on 53-39-81 shooting. I can’t say I saw this kind of season coming from a 28-year-old 7-footer playing in Orlando. Credit to him for such an excellent year, and new head coach Steve Clifford for unleashing him. He absolutely deserves an All-Star spot.
Is the VanVleet/Ibaka Chemistry Improving?
We’ve all had a lot of complaints this season about Fred VanVleet as the primary ball handler, particularly in pick-and-roll situations; he hasn’t seemed able to find the roll man effectively, either ignoring him or passing too late. So it was heartening to see him and Ibaka generate two great looks early last night.
The first was on the Raptors’ second possession of the game; Ibaka dropped a handoff to VanVleet, who turned to the hoop to put pressure on the D; both defenders followed and VanVleet slipped it to Ibaka for a layup. Two plays later Ibaka screened for VanVleet at the top of the key, and when the defense momentarily froze VanVleet hit Ibaka with a perfect pass for Serge’s patented 15-foot elbow J.
There wasn’t a lot to like in this one, but I definitely liked seeing those two plays come together.
Kawhi Leonard got Handles
I have to admit I’ve been surprised at how well Kawhi Leonard can handle the rock. I didn’t know it was part of his game, and he didn’t quite seem to have it early in the season. But I guess he’s shaken off the rust, because now he’s doing things like this on the regular:
ON A STRING— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 29, 2018
Vote Kawhi: https://t.co/kJjrU16AxR pic.twitter.com/X6xIAwsxsu
It was about the only Raptors highlight worth sharing, sure. But you take what you can get after a night like that, you know?
Magic Fans: Not Detail Oriented
During a timeout last night, a Magic fan contest came down to a tiebreaker between two fans, and the question asked to break the tie was “How many times have the Raptors and Magic played each other, including playoffs?” Closest answer wins.
Now, I didn’t know the exact answer, but a quick mental calculation got me in the ballpark. These two dudes?
11, one said. Eight, said the the other.
87, was the answer (I would’ve guessed 80.)
Not everyone at an NBA game is a huge fan, I get it. But come on! You have to at least have the awareness to know these teams have been around for a while and that they play each other a couple times a year. Eight!? Geez Louise.
I guess to close it out I’ll let Eric Smith sum it up:
This is looking like a 10-10-60 game.— Eric Smith (@Eric__Smith) December 29, 2018
10 you win...no matter what. Everything goes your way.
10 you lose...no matter what. Nothing goes your way.
Your season is made or broken by what happens in the other 60.
I sure hope that’s the case, and it was a random “nothing worked” night, and not a harbinger of more serious underlying issues. We’ll see when another sub-.500 team, the Chicago Bulls, comes to town on Sunday.