The last time the Raptors played the Magic, Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry combined for a stellar 50 points, 14 boards and 10 assists. Heading into this game, however, things are looking a bit different for this Toronto team. Lowry has been out with a thumb injury for nearly two weeks, and Pascal has seen a couple rough outings. Fred VanVleet has taken over the starting role with poise, and Nick Nurse has discovered that the team does, in fact, have a bench to rely on.
Oh, and did I mention OG wore goggles tonight? Sure, it only lasted about six minutes before he shed them for good, but it was a fun surprise nonetheless.
Pascal started the game off strong with a beautiful hesitation move into a midrange jumper, while Fred VanVleet used his craftiness to slither in for a layup. Soon after, he used a behind the back dribble to find Marc Gasol in the corner. Offensively, everything seemed to be going well — even Norman Powell was finishing at the rim! Unfortunately, some impressive Magic shooting led to a tie game at the end of the first quarter.
At the start of the second, the Raptors’ bench made a huge impact as Toronto gained a sizeable lead. Terence Davis was sniping from long range, while Chris Boucher put together a gorgeous block-to-putback dunk sequence. What became immediately apparent in this quarter is both teams’ ridiculous athleticism. The amount of plays that occurred above the rim were just absurd, either in the form of crazy jams or powerful blocks.
Sadly, both Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic left the game early on with injuries and did not return. Still, the Magic maintained composure and kept the game competitive for the remainder of the first half. Markelle Fultz put together quite the showing, stealing the ball for a breakaway dunk and using his craftiness and court vision for a beautiful assist. In retaliation, OG Anonoby threw down a nasty backwards two-handed jam; you better believe I was celebrating. The half ended 61-51 for the Raptors, who collectively shot an impressive 56 percent from the field.
The Raptors, especially the bench, exuded energy to start this game (despite being killed on the offensive glass, as per usual). Terence Davis continued to take his game to a new level in the first half, putting up 13 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist in just 11 minutes.
In classic Pascal fashion, he opened the third quarter with confidence, even blocking two shots on the same possession. After a bit of a struggle, the Raptors were carried by Norman Powell, who continued his dominance from the first half, along with Fred and OG. The Magic fought hard, but Toronto matched their intensity; the lead remained stable, hovering around 5-10 points for most of the third quarter. In the latter half of the third, Fred struggled with his shot but remained valuable by playing active defense, getting into the lane, drawing fouls and — cue Jack Armstrong voice — dropping dimes! The Raptors played outstanding defense, holding the Magic to just 17 points in the quarter. Heading into the fourth, the Raptors led 79-68.
Finally, Toronto really started to break this one open. Chris Boucher showed off his length with an offensive rebound, and subsequently utilized his quick second jump to grab his own rebound for the putback lay-in. A positive note for the Magic: Jonathan Isaac got the better of Siakam on multiple occasions. He did a commendable job guarding Siakam, consistently staying in front of him and bodying him up. As well, Isaac managed to shake free from Pascal and hit a midrange jumper. Still, as star players do, Pascal made the Magic pay by hitting some tough shots and grabbing boards over multiple bodies in the paint. Eventually, the Raptors’ defensive effort proved too much for the Magic, who got blown out 113-97.
Over the course of the game, Toronto ended up holding the Magic to a lowly 38 percent from the field with their staunch defense. It all led to some garbage time in which Oshae Brissett hit a three! Another positive: Nurse played Pascal for only 35 minutes tonight, and he could certainly use the rest. He shot just 39 percent from the field against Orlando, though he still managed to finish with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists.
The star of the game was undoubtedly VanVleet, whose play propelled the Raptors to victory. He shot 10-of-19 from the field, putting up 24 points and 7 assists. It’s comforting to know that Steady Freddy can hold the fort down with Lowry out, although we’ll hopefully be seeing Lowry on the court again soon.