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Five thoughts on last night: Raptors 121, Magic 109

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The Raptors responded to two earlier blowout losses to Orlando by... blowing out the Magic!

NBA: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It’s really something about the Orlando Magic for Danny Green, isn’t it? After beating the Magic on a last-second shot earlier this year, Green buried them again last night — dropping in seven three-pointers as the Raptors shook off an early malaise to run away with the game.

Let’s get to the thoughts:

Where Were you When you Heard About the Danny Green Trade?

It’s become somewhat of a joke — “the Raptors really got the Spurs to throw Danny Green in to the Leonard-DeRozan trade” — but watching the game last night, you really see how much of a difference-maker Green can be, and you can’t help but wonder... what were the Spurs thinking?! (Or, perhaps it’s simpler to think, Masai Ujiri is a God among men.)

As for this “Is Danny Green the best three-point shooter in Raptors history” thing, I don’t think he’s a better pure shooter than Dell Curry, but he certainly plays a more important role than Dell did at that point of his career; and he’s playing a bigger role than Jason Kapono, and he’s playing on a winning team, which Donyell Marshall never did... and beyond the shooting, he offers so much more, in terms of defense. So, I think, perhaps you can say, “Danny Green is the most important three-point shooter in Raptors history,” if that makes any sense.

Ball Movement from the Centre Position

With 7:45 to go in the third quarter, Pascal Siakam posted up D.J. Augustin on the right block on a mismatch. Augustin actually played solid D, didn’t allow Siakam to go baseline, and forced him back to the middle, where Siakam was forced to kick it out to Marc Gasol on the left wing.

Gasol immediately swung it to Danny Green in the corner for three:

We can litigate the Gasol-Jonas Valanciunas trade forever (and I’m sure we will) but that’s a pass Valanciunas can’t make. I’m not saying that's enough to justify the trade, but that’s the type of winning play you bring Marc Gasol in to make, and he makes it every time.

Those Hands, Man, Those Hands

Kawhi Leonard had a quiet night, shooting 5-of-12 for 15 points, but he had the highlight of the game for me (well, except for all those Danny threes) in the second quarter.

The Raptors were making their run, turning the tables on the Magic a bit, but it was still very much in doubt, and you could certainly question the Raptors’ effort level at that point.. until Leonard ripped an offensive rebound away from Aaron Gordon, wrapping those giant hands around the ball and refusing to let go. It was the very definition of “he wanted it more,” and it was exactly what the Raptors needed at that point — especially since he immediately found Marc Gasol behind the arc, who drained a three while getting fouled.

That gave the Raptors their first lead of the night and they never gave it back.

Please Fix Continuation

At least Gasol got the continuation call on that bucket. The officials’ judgment on what is and what isn’t a basket after a foul has been so wildly inconsistent this year, I honestly have no idea when the whistle blows what they’re going to call. Kyle Lowry hit a runner in the second quarter while getting hacked, and he was — in my eyes — very clearly in the shooting motion, he’d even left his feet when the whistle blew, but... they waved it off.

I’m sure you’ve seen what happened in Minnesota the other night, where Kevin Durant buried a three-pointer with five seconds to go — and the Warriors trailing by three — only to have it waved off when the officials declared he was fouled before the shot, even though he went into his shooting motion as soon as he caught it. He should have had the chance to take the lead at the free throw line, and instead the Timberwolves ended up winning (hit that link to see the ensuing craziness if you haven’t seen it!). (Also — bad call or not — how did the Warriors not get a single fine for taunting the referees in the game, and then calling them out by name after the game?)

On the other end of the spectrum... have you seen some of the continuation calls that James Harden gets?

Anyway, it’s very clear that the players, coaches and fans have no idea what continuation is anymore, and it’s a problem, and it’ll probably swing a playoff game — much like the definition of a catch in the NFL. Is that what the NBA wants? Surely not, but I don’t know how they fix it in time for the postseason.

The Raptor Roots are Spreading

Matt Devlin mentioned it on the broadcast last night: The fingerprints of this Raptors organization are all over the league, and you’re finding them more and more.

Last night, he was speaking of Terrence Ross (who had an awful game but has had a solid season for the Magic) and Jeff Weltman, the former Raptors GM who joined the Magic in 2017 and has helped nudge them towards the playoffs. But you’re also seeing the roots elsewhere:

  • The Raptors-drafted talent on the Spurs and Grizzlies, including Bruno Caboclo
  • Jerry Stackhouse is close to becoming the head coach at Vanderbilt
  • Alfonso McKinnie has played solid minutes for the Warriors this year
  • Dwane Casey is having a successful first season in Detroit
  • Amir Johnson helped shepherd Philadelphia’s young guys through The Process
  • Ed Davis is contributing to a winning Brooklyn team

I’m sure there are more examples I’m missing, but the point is — the Raptors have done a great job of player, coach and front office personnel evaluation and development over the past several years, and now it’s paying dividends — both internally for the team, and in the moves they're able to make, and in the careers of those individuals.

And I think it’s pretty cool.

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All right, that’s it for this one. The Raptors have now won four straight, and this was the first of the four against a team actually trying, so it was a good win for the home team. They’ve got three more against teams still vying for that last playoff spot — Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte — before closing it out against Minnesota. Can they run the table? Let’s find out!