The Raptors almost played their most complete game of the year. A lacklustre 1st quarter has started to become a recent theme for Toronto. Nevertheless, the Raptors exerted utter defensive domination during the next 36 minutes, winning by an enormous 30 point margin.
The Toronto Raptors, coming off an ugly Atlanta Hawks loss, came to Orlando, Florida to prove a point – they were not getting pushed around in consecutive games. This was Toronto’s 1st matchup of the year with the 12th-seeded Orlando Magic led by former-Pacers head coach, Frank Vogel.
Orlando has been struggling to find an identity this year, plummeting down the Eastern Conference standings – meanwhile Toronto has found theirs, as an offensive juggernaut led by an improved and more efficient DeMar DeRozan.
Another slow start by Toronto
Overall, the Raptors have played decent in the first quarter this year. A recent trend however, has seen Toronto play sluggish and downright ugly in the game’s first 12 minutes. This was the case yet again in Orlando as the Magic kept the pressure on Toronto early. Orlando scored oftentimes using Raptors fan-favorite and now Magic center, Bismack Biyombo in screen-and-roll plays all over the court. This ultimately allowed Orlando guards, Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier to execute offensive sets with ease. The Raptors looked one step too slow as the Magic lead 30-23 after the first frame.
Magic? More like tragic
Orlando simply lost all steam when the 2nd quarter began. Toronto was searching for a pulse and Orlando handed it to them in the form of a hard foul. Magic guard, Jodie Meeks picked up a flagrant foul by intentionally shoving Kyle Lowry in response to the guard’s physical defensive ability. Lowry, then angrily responded with a few choice words and that soon became all the motivation he needed.
It was on.
Lowry hit a deep three-ball just minutes after the minor scuffle and subsequently stared down Meeks. As the game ensued, it got uglier and uglier as the Magic just couldn’t find a way to put the ball into the hoop.
Stars and JV lead the way. Again.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry both played stellar games leading Toronto to a win in what sounds like a broken record. DeRozan had 30 points before the 4th quarter began, ultimately pouring in 31 points on 13 for 21 shooting. Lowry finished with 16 and 10 assists while Jonas Valanciunas – also productive – scored 16 points with 13 rebounds in a mere 25 minutes played.
Biyombo faces former team
Last season, Bismack Biyombo was a key piece for Toronto all year long. After several monumental performances during the 2016 NBA Playoffs, Biyombo became the Raptors heart and soul defensively.
This was Biyombo’s first game as a member of the Magic versus his old, beloved Raptors squad. Biyombo was a rare bright spot versus Toronto in an entirely abysmal game played by Orlando. He scored 8 points, with 12 rebounds, 3 blocks and a steal in only 26 minutes. A highly productive game that came to no surprise by Raptors fans.
Game, set, match.
In quarters 2, 3 and 4, the Raptors outscored Orlando 86-49 in a defensive masterpiece. Raptors coach Dwane Casey must have been proud watching his team fulfil his timesake mantra, ‘Pound the rock’, as the Orlando Magic were totally neutralized offensively. This marked a badly-needed bounceback win for the Raptors.
Dec 18, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) shoots over Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Next on the schedule
The Raptors travel back home to face the dreadful Brooklyn Nets (7-19) on Tuesday night. Can they build off this win and impress defensively?