Kawhi Leonard followed his 37 points on 15-of-22 shooting with a 16 point outing, shooting an abysmal 5-of-19 from the field. With numbers like that from Toronto’s top guy, it should be next to impossible to win a playoff game on the road. However, something special happened.
Pascal Siakam, who many thought would struggle in this series due to the length of Magic players Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon, put up a show-stopping 30 points and 11 rebounds. In a season of continuous improvement from Siakam, he took over in the third quarter and made some big shots. Specifically, after Orlando took their first lead of the game just under the 7-minute mark, Siakam answered with a crowd silencing corner 3. Toronto would quickly go on a 16-0 run, capped off by a wonderful up-and-under move by Siakam against former Raptor Terrence Ross.
After the impressive performance, Danny Green was surprised to know Siakam had only been playing organized basketball for 7 years.
Reporter to Siakam: "You've only been playing basketball for seven years..."— Raptorr (@Raptornian) April 20, 2019
Danny Green: "Wait...seriously? Really? Is that true? I didn't know that?" pic.twitter.com/bG5a0duevU
Toronto has never led a playoff series 3-1. What’s more, in every series since 2014, not once have they been able to win a series in under six games, even while having home-court advantage every single series. The closest they came to winning a Game 4 while having a 2-1 lead was against Miami in the second round of the 2016 playoffs. It was a game in which former Raptor and current Magic Terrence Ross was the leading scorer for Toronto in an 87-94 overtime loss. Even in the 2018 post-season, Toronto were up 2-0 going against 8th seed Washington only to return home for a Game 5 with the series tied up at two games apiece.
Toronto has been in this position before, but will it be different this time around? The Raptors have never had a squad more battle tested and experienced. The young Magic will only be playing their second home play-off game since 2012. Can the Raptors take care of business on the road? Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN4, 7:00 PM EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Orlando – D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic
Toronto – OG Anunoby (abdomen – OUT), Chris Boucher (back – day-to-day)
Orlando – Mohamed Bamba (leg – OUT), Markelle Fultz (shoulder – OUT), Timofey Mozgov (knee – OUT)
Not So Steady Freddy
It was only last post-season when Raptor fans believed that had Fred VanVleet not been hit with an injury on the final regular season game, his play would have help Toronto get through Washington with ease. After an impressive stretch of games since his return from injury, VanVleet has been struggling to say the least in the playoffs.
VanVleet is shooting 38 percent from the field and 30 percent from deep in the first three games of the series. Just from the eye test, he’s missing easy layups, failing to recognize mismatches, and not playing so well on the other end either. It could be the length of Michael Carter-Williams on one end and chasing Terrence Ross around screens on the other end, but Fred VanVleet will be needed if Raptors advance deeper in the playoffs.
Marc Gasol’s defense against Nikola Vucevic has made life difficult for Orlando. Vucevic was a first year All-Star this season, averaging 20+ points and 10+ rebounds, which was only done by two other Orlando Magic big men: Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. For this series, he’s only averaging 13 points on 38 percent shooting from the field. And that’s largely due to Gasol’s heady defensive play.
A lot was said when the Gasol/Jonas Valanciunas trade went through on deadline day. Even more was uttered after some impressive 30/20 games from Valanciunas. But the impact —and the reason Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster made this trade — was always going to be seen in the post-season. Marc Gasol was part of some serious playoff runs in the loaded Western Conference with Memphis and he seems to be bringing that intensity for Toronto in this series. Shutting down the opponent’s top player is just one way Gasol raises the ceiling for the Raptors.
Scary Terry 2?
Terrence Ross has been the lone bright spot for the Magic this series. In Game 1, he led Orlando is +/- with +13, despite shooting 2-of-11. In the 29-point Orlando loss in Game 2, Ross was only a -9. In the first home game for the Magic this series, he was a +9 and scored 24 points while nailing five triples — including one late to bring Toronto’s lead down to three.
It could be Toronto’s bench struggles that makes Terrence Ross such a threat, but having someone who could go ballistic at any time this series has forced the Raptors to trap him almost every time he comes off a screen. The Magic starters have been lacklustre this series and Ross always cuts the deficit. With what could be their last home playoff game this year, keep an eye on what Ross could do to tie the series.