Toronto Raptors Beat the Orlando Magic
The first place Toronto Raptors beating the 13th place Orlando Magic 104-100 on their home-court doesn’t look that impressive. A 6-1 team should beat a 2-5 team, right? Yes they should. But a win is a win, sure…
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However, the fashion in which they completed the win is what was so impressive. On Remembrance Day in Canada, Toronto donned their camp-greens and left Orlando to wear the customary home-white uniform’s. For such an impressive start (record-wise) at home, it seemed that the early season magic at the Air Canada Centre must’ve been in the white uniforms, as Orlando was hitting three’s and jumping out to an early lead. Channing Frye had 13 of the Magic’s 32 first quarter points. Remember when Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey was considered a defensive coach? He must’ve been shaking in his seat as his Raps gave up 60 in the opening half.
Nov 11, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Lou Williams (23) hits a three-pointer against the Orlando Magic at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Magic 104-100. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Down 11 entering the fourth (after seemingly being down nine-eleven points all game long), coach Casey and the Raptors needed a spark. The starting five just wasn’t getting it done, so all the starters were pulled from the game.
The entire second unit was put on the floor: Greivis Vasquez, Louis Williams (right), James Johnson (featured image, above), Patrick Patterson, and Tyler Hansbrough took over for the Raps. And took over the game.
They started the final quarter on a jaw-dropping 11-0 run, erasing the Magic lead. Casey stuck with this five for a good duration of the fourth quarter, rewarding the men on the court for their prestige. “Go with what got you there” is a common adage heard in all sports’ playoffs speaking mainly of whom to play. And this second unit, unquestionably was what got the Raptors to this point. (Vasquez was eventually subbed out for Kyle Lowry after ineffective shooting.)
After the 11-0 run, the Raptors finally seized the lead and the sold-out home crowd spiked its volume. After Patterson’s three to tie the game at 9:49 left in the fourth, it never felt like Toronto was going to lose – which seemed like a near certainty just five minutes earlier in the game.
After my article lavishing Lowry with early MVP praise for his performances primary in the Raptors surge to first place through eight games, he was not part of that 11-0 run. The MVP of this game was undoubtedly Lou Williams, who took control of that run and subsequent fourth quarter until the wee moments of the game.
Williams took control of the game: in his fifteen minutes, he shot 5/8 from the field and scored 14 points. Also, he hit a big three and stole the ball off the block. If that doesn’t earn him the nickname “Sparkplug”, I don’t know what will. (“Sweet Lou” is already pretty decent though.)
This game had “trap-game” written all over it as a massive game in the Eastern Conference, with the Chicago Bulls looms for the Raptors Thursday night. But the Raptors pulled through against the Magic! Much thanks to their second-unit spark and their defensive prowess in crunch-time of the fourth quarter (in particular, see Johnson, James). Expanding on their D in the fourth, they forced five turnovers and limited Orlando to 35 percent shooting (while shooting 60 percent themselves).
In the game, Lowry scored 19 points with 6 rebounds and 7 dimes, Terrence Ross (right) had 17, DeMar DeRozan dipped in 18 with 4 rebounds and assists, while Patterson had 12 points on 4/5 shooting (mostly of the supremely clutch variety). The Raptors, like they have all season, used the free throw line to their utmost benefit, where they shot 25/30… while the Magic shot just 10/16. Orlando was led by Evan Fournier with 24 points, Tobias Harris with 23 and 13, and finally Frye had 19 (cooing off immensely with just six points in the second half). Harris was defended very well by Johnson on a late plunge to the basket and couldn’t get the shot to tie to fall.
This game was all about fortifying the second unit, who proved themselves to be a force. The Raptors again show the T in team and how important that chemistry is to being a winning team. With the unheralded move by Masai Ujiri to snatch up Williams from Atlanta, the one new piece looks to be a balanced equation in fitting in with these Raptors and appears to make them that much better.
The Raptors have only defeated one “good” team thus far (Washington). They lost to Miami, who along with the Wizards, are the best teams Toronto has played. Defeating the likes of Orlando and Boston will only get you so far in the Eastern Conference (round 1, right? As evidence shows). We will get to see how the Raptors stack up to a real team in the East on Thursday when the first-place Raptors take on the second-place Bulls Thursday at the ACC. This game will receive national telecast status in the U.S. on TNT, a feat rarely accustomed to the Raptors. Even rarer is that the game is in Toronto. With the limited exposure the team gets in the States, it will be interesting to see how the Raps respond. Hopefully they don’t get overwhelmed in the bright lights and big stage….