1. JJ Redick played like a starting-caliber shooting guard. Maybe Redick just isn’t comfortable being a role player. In relief of Carter, Redick played more than anyone else in the game (44:50) and showed flashes of the all-American player he was at Duke. Redick went 5-for-8 from 3-point range on his way to a career-high 27 points, but it was more than that. He posted six rebounds, five assists, a steal and only one turnover, finishing with the game’s best +/- of 12. Redick proved on Sunday — even to the most passionate skeptics — that he belongs in the NBA.
2. Hedo Turkoglu played well, but he was kept in check. Turk likely isn’t having any regrets about today’s game, scoring 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He looked thin and in-shape. It’s easy to forget how fluid he is coming off the pick-and-roll and hitting that mid-range jumper — at times in the second half he looked really, really good.
With the game in the balance, it was the Magic newcomers hustling down rebounds to keep the Raptors away. The key sequence comes after Turkoglu's three-point play to bring Toronto within 7 with less than 2 minutes to play; a big deficit, but not insurmountable. Nelson runs the clock on Orlando's ensuing possession before uncorking an off-balance jump shot that hits the front rim and bounces back toward him. Both Anderson and Matt Barnes are in the area, and slap the ball away from a would-be Raptor rebounder and into the Magic's backcourt, where Nelson retrieves it and sets up the offense once more. Orlando works the ball inside to Howard, who goes up strong, but Bosh swats his shot out of bounds with 6 seconds to shoot. Nelson takes a long three-pointer, but misses short again. Howard's there for the rebound, and kicks the ball back out again. More time dwindles away, and the possession ends with Antoine Wright fouling Redick, who sinks 2 free throws to make the lead 123-114, Orlando.
The Raptors failed to put the ball in the hands of their new playmaker as Orlando hung on after the Raptors tried gamely to rally back from a 22-point hole they dug themselves in the second quarter.
Turkoglu was a significant factor as the Raptors surged back – he scored 12 of his 14 points after the Raptors hit rock bottom, including nine while going four-of-four in the third quarter, and he also tossed in four assists and a pair of blocked shots.
It says a lot about a team that advanced to last season's NBA final when it plays without Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus, is forced to start guys normally accustomed to coming off the bench, and never skips a beat.
Naturally, there were moments when the Magic looked vulnerable, but there were plenty of other occasions when the Magic looked invincible.
No one, at least no one with a clear conscious, is saying that Orlando will continue to remain unbeaten, but the team is 3-0 to begin the regular season and went 8-0 in the pre-season.
No one is questioning the defection of Hedo Turkoglu and there's no question Orlando will be a player this season.
A lot of the credit falls on the shoulders of GM Otis Smith, who got the green light from ownership to exceed the threshold, a forbidden territory for many clubs, Toronto included, but a necessary evil when a team is committed to winning a title.
"This is what they do. They put shooters around Dwight Howard," Raptors coach Jay Triano said after the game. "If you take away the shooters as we tried later, then Dwight Howard goes crazy inside, or we fouled him like we did, which we thought was playing the odds the right way. "
"I'm disappointed with the loss, but I think we did every possibility coverage-wise that we could do."
Maybe. But if the Raptors shoot 54% from the field and 59% from three-point territory and still lose against a short-handed elite team, what chance do they have when such a team is healthy?
Raps coach Jay Triano wasn't pointing fingers at his players, although he could have. Instead, he opted to go the what-else-could-we-do route.
"They had 16 (threes) opening night, too," he said. "This is what they do. They put shooters around Dwight Howard. If you take away the shooters as we tried later, then Dwight Howard goes crazy inside or we foul him like we did and play the odds. He is a 50% free-throw shooter and he had a great night going 14-for-16 (from the line)."
Chris Bosh, with 72 points in back-to-back losses, wasn't as willing to give his club a pass.
Towards the end of last season the still popular and once former Raptors player, Alvin Williams started showing up on the sidelines at Raptor games. This caused quite a bit of a stir as anyone who remembers Alvin’s last couple of seasons in Toronto will recall, Alvin Williams did not leave the Raptors bench willingly.
Williams career ended a couple of seasons after having micro-fracture surgery on his right knee when the team concluded he wasn’t going to be coming back and bought him out. But the competitive fires were still burning for Alvin and he gave it one last chance trying to catch on with the Clippers in January 2007 before finally surrendering to the inevitable.
Stats that stood out:
– Matt Barnes had 6 steals
– Magic turned the ball over only 9 times
– Orlando led by as many as 22 points in first half
– Orlando’s 36-point 1st QRT iced the game … as Toronto outscored the Magic in the 3rd and 4th quarters and lost the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th combined by only 1 point (89-88)
– Tight on the Glass: 38-37 REBOUNDING advantage for the Raptors
– Andrea Bargnani had 4 points in the first half … 22 points in the 2nd half (26 total)
– The game was won from 3-point land: Orlando was 17/32 from distance (those 17 three-balls were an Raptors’ opponent record)
The 17 three-pointers by the Magic yesterday matched an all-time Raptors opponent high.
It has been done three times previously, most recently by the New York Knicks last Feb. 20.
SONNY IS BACK
Marcus Banks joined the suit-wearing inactive set for the Raptors with Sonny Weems getting back into a uniform.
Weems had been out with a sore left foot. He did not get into the game as head coach Jay Triano went with a 10-man rotation.
So you can understand why nobody was ready for J.J. Redick to become the headliner. In his best game as a pro by far, Redick dropped 27 points (5-8 3PA), five boards and six assists in helping Orlando stay unbeaten. Remember that automatic limitless-range jumper J.J. used to have at Duke? It was back on Sunday … Bosh (35 pts, 16 rebs) got the better of Dwight (24 pts, 11 rebs), but he almost got his ass whupped in the process. Midway through the fourth, Dwight got the ball under the rim and was winding up for a Hulk-Smash when Bosh horse-collared him a little too aggressively. Players got between the two, however, so there were no blows and no coaches hanging on anybody’s leg … Even without Redick, the game tape would’ve made a good instructionaal video for the art of the jump shot. Jameer Nelson (30 pts) and Ryan Anderson knocked down five threes apiece, while Turkoglu (19 pts) hit his share, and Andrea Bargnani (26 pts, 4 threes) was shooting Brandon Bass and Anderson’s faces off
On an afternoon when the stats sheet — for the most part — read like a glowing endorsement of the Raptors, there was one number that sealed their fate. The Magic attempted 32 three-pointers and connected 17 times in a wild 125-116 win at the Air Canada Centre.
It didn't matter that the Raps themselves made good on 59% of their three-point attempts. Or that they outshot the Magic from the field 54% to 44%. Or that Andrea Bargnani, after a disappearing act in the first half, scored 22 in the final 24 minutes.
All of that was made irrelevant by the Magic's superior outside shooting, accomplished without Rashard Lewis (suspended), Vince Carter (sprained ankle) and Mickael Pietrus, who was put back on a plane to Orlando after coming down with the flu.
In the meantime, the two announcers have to come up with a proper lexicon to describe NBA action. They want their call to be colourful and fast-paced – just like the game – and are sure they can pull it off, with assists to NBA sportscasters like Chuck Swirsky.
Now the voice of the Chicago Bulls, Swirsky called Raptors games for a decade. A pet phrase was "Get out the salami and cheese mama, this ball game is over!"
Parminder will give this a Punjabi spin: "Bebe, bring out the dal and roti … this game's over." Dal is lentil and roti is flatbread, staples in an Indian meal. Bebe is a pet name for grandmothers in Punjabi. By weaving in Punjabi phrases and terms, the two want to make viewing their Raptors broadcasts a family event.
As he stood in front of his locker trying to explain how things went awry, Bosh repeated an old refrain.
"I think we came out flat defensively," he said. "We didn't do the things defensively that we've been talking about since the pre-season, which is have all contested shots and give them one rebound."
Facing an Orlando team missing three key pieces – an injured Vince Carter, a flu-stricken Mickeal Pietrus and a suspended Rashard Lewis – the Raptors figured they'd take a chance on stopping Dwight Howard and getting out to contest the shooters that surround him.
So basically, again it’s our defense. Or lack of it. You can’t allow the Magic shooting three. If you leave them open, it’s like a layup for them. When the Raptors forced these guys to dribble and shoot, the percentage drop. Unfortunately, the Magic spaced the floor really well and shot ready for the most part.
I was at the game live today, and the first 2 quarters was just horrible to watch. It’s not a sold out crowd, which is surprising and worrisome at the same time. You can’t get a sell out against the team that went to the Finals or a Sunday afternoon? The upperbowl is packed, but there were plenty of seats down in the lower bowl.
One point of emphasis, for instance, is how Marco Belinelli seems to be a player that is better suited to playing minutes when his team is up rather than when they're down. Against Cleveland last week, Belinelli came in and helped balloon a lead by being relaxed and in attack-mode, mentally ensconced in the security of a five-point lead when he checked into the game. He was mixing up his offense, going both one-on-one while also allowing his teammates to set him up, and he seemed to generate confidence from the team's pre-existing advantage. Against Orlando, he entered the game down seven and looked far less composed in his court time. He got a turnover (traveling) trying to go one-on-one and he later missed a bad pull-up jumper, which led to substitution seven seconds later. He was not to return.
"I think we came out flat defensively. We didn't do the things defensively that we've been talking about since the pre-season, which is have all contested shots and give them one rebound."
Facing an Orlando team missing three key pieces — an injured Vince Carter, a flu-stricken Mickeal Pietrus and a suspended Rashard Lewis — the Raptors figured they'd take a chance on stopping Dwight Howard and getting out to contest the shooters that surround him on the floor.
The first part of it worked like a charm — Howard was just 2-of-7 from the field in the first half.
Trouble was, the Raptors didn't do nearly as well contesting the shots they were willing to give up as Orlando drilled 10 first-half three-pointers and led by as many as 22.
"They had a lot of wide-open threes and that's what killed us. They made a few with our hands in their face, they were contested, and if they make them, that's fine. I think we can do a better job of just staying solid with our principles."
"I don't think they ever should have booed Vince," says Raptors assistant coach Alvin Williams, Carter's former teammate. "But it's routine, now."
Williams is in many ways Carter's opposite. When he was introduced before the home opener, the place roared for the guy who admits "to me, I was a mediocre player." But Williams maximized himself until his knee wore out, whereas Carter floated on the magic carpet of his talent until his patience with management wore out. Remember, he was upset that the Raptors hired Rob Babcock, a position with which no reasonable Raptors fan will disagree.
"It was just a bad thing all the way around," says Williams. "He wasn't appreciated [by teammates and coaches], and he wasn't used the correct way. It wasn't handled the right way, definitely."
Jay Triano in the inside look into training camp talks about this concept of a house and guarding it. Well that works well until people with grenade launcher they can still blow-up your house.
It was mentioned by Leo Rautins and that's passion. We need it on defense, badly. Our leaders need to be more vocal on the defensive end. Every good defensive team has those two or three players that react a certain way to help pump up the team. So far, I've only seen it from Bosh and Calderon on offense and I've seen a bit of it in Antoine Wright on the defensive end. When you look at the Celtics, Garnett and Pierce really stand out because they react to everything, they have a passion for their defense, they're proud of it.
"I love it, good basketball," Bosh said after. "It's just a hard foul, there's no hard feelings or anything, I didn't want him to have a chance to make the basket so I wrapped him up. I'm trying to win basketball games, and if it takes a hard foul to do it, then so be it."
For you stat folks out there, here is a number I have been tracking since the start of the 2006-07 season, when Toronto overhauled its roster and won the Atlantic Division title. Going into this season, if the Raptors hold their opponent to 45 per cent or less from the field they have a .791 winning percentage, but if the opponent is 45 per cent or better, the success rate is .291.
Raptors vs Magic – Jay Triano Post-Game Video
Raptors vs Magic – Game in Six Video