Despite a disappointing second half breakdown, the Toronto Raptors completed their season sweep against the Orlando Magic with a 98-93 win. Toronto (42-31) has clinched the fifth winning season in franchise history, and tied the franchise record for road wins in a season (20). DeMar DeRozan led the way with 28 points on 15-16 shooting from the free throw line, Jonas Valanciunas contributed 20 points and nine rebounds and Kyle Lowry pulled through with 16 points and two steals. Orlando (21-53) saw production from big man Nikola Vucevic and rookie Victor Oladipo, who combined for 38 points on 17-25 shooting. The Raptors dominated their opponent in the first half, leading 57-38 by the break with with a key boost from Nando De Colo, Landry Fields and Steve Novak. The team took a relaxed approach to the second half of play and were consequently punished with an Orlando run. After being outscored 26-16 in the third quarter, the Raptors relied on clutch performance from Lowry and DeRozan to close the game out. It was nerve-wracking to say the least. Following tonight’s much-needed win, Toronto heads into a tough three game stretch against the Miami Heat, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers.
There were no overly-concerning issues in the Raptors’ offensive game tonight. In the first half, the team did a great job of moving the ball and getting looks inside- they outscored the Magic 28-20 in the paint. In the second half, Toronto recovered from its defensive breakdowns with smart shooting. As a whole, the team shot 45.2% from the field and stayed consistent in their shot selection. Valanciunas was integral in the Raptors’ great offensive performance. When he gets into a rhythm down low and stays aggressive, he gives his team a scoring edge that’s hard to match.
Fourth quarter breakdowns are always the worst. Toronto led by as much as 21 in this game, yet Orlando refused to go away and went on a series of scoring runs. The Magic took a brief one point lead in the final frame (probably the highest point of tension in the game) as their opponent allowed it. The Raptors were outscored 41-55 in the second half, partly due to poor perimeter defense and costly turnovers. Orlando made all seven of its three pointers in the last two quarters of play. Thankfully, the visiting team was again saved by their own clutch shots and a bit of luck. Going forward, perimeter defense must tighten up to avoid these late comebacks.
The Raptors were out-rebounded 30-33 tonight. Valanciunas had a team-high nine boards, while starting forward Amir Johnson pulled down just three. It was a weak rebounding game for both teams, but Toronto made up for it in building a late lead to secure the win. It’s also worth noting that De Colo recorded four rebounds (one more than Johnson) in just seven minutes of play. He proved his worth in multiple ways tonight and should be a legitimate option in future games.
Game Ball: DeMar DeRozan
The All-Star came through for his team once again and put up big time numbers. Toronto needed this victory, as the next three opponents are among the league’s elite and will play competitive ball to say the least. DeRozan took care of business and maintained the high level of play that is expected of him.