Four games into what every Raptor knew would be a trying road trip, the bottom fell out.
And not just a little bit, but all the way to rock bottom.
It was the type of night where three quarters of Dwight Howard was better than the combined production of the Raptors entire starting five.
Howard rested the final 12 minutes after putting up 31 points and 19 rebounds, nine of them at the offensive end.
The five Raptors’ starters combined to match him in the points department with 31 total but were two shy of his rebound total.
It was the type of night that saw the Raptors reach depths this franchise rarely has seen.
The 112-72 final and the 40-point spread is something that the Raptors have not experienced since losing to the Seattle SuperSonics on Jan 15, 1997.
In the Raptors inaugural season, they set a franchise worst mark losing to the New York Knicks by 46.
So it wasn’t the worst, but it certainly felt like it.
It was the type of night where even mild-mannered Julian Wright would blow off a little steam, the intended direction of his rant appeared to be Jerryd Bayless, but Wright played it down after the game as just heat of the moment stuff.
For head coach Jay Triano it was the kind of night that was almost predictable given the health of his team, the condensed schedule it has been playing and the extended minutes he has had to ask of those few healthy Raptors.
“I think we just wore down,” Triano. “Dwight was just too much for us on the boards. We couldn’t keep him off the glass offensively or defensively and then our strategy of trying to foul him backfires in the third quarter when he makes six of seven from the line.”
That may have been the strategy, but it wasn’t carried out.
The injuries to first LeBron and then Bosh, who is doubtful for Saturday’s tilt, have wreaked havoc with the Heat, who has now lost four in a row. It’s locating that chemistry all over again, although instead of finding it with LeBron and Bosh, Wade has had to find it with Joel Anthony and James Jones in the starting lineup. Don’t kid yourself though. The Heat still are a monster matchup but interestinginly it’s mostly about their defence. Even with offence to spare, the big numbers have bene opponent’s field goal percentage (.428), which is second in the league, opponents three-point field goal percentage (.321), which is also second in the league and the 93.7 points a game it gives up, which is fifth in the Association.
"Dwight was just too much on the glass for us. We couldn’t keep him off the glass offensively or defensively," Jay Triano, the Toronto coach, said. "He’s good, and we’re not — we’re not a good rebounding team. It’s a conscious effort to go get it, and we don’t have a lot of guys that have a distinct nose to go get the ball."
The Raptors didn’t display much of a knack for shooting it, either; their 72 points amounted to their lowest-scoring game of the season. The 40-point losing margin amounted to Toronto’s worst defeat since 1997. All that misery added up to the visitors’ sixth loss in a row, and their fourth straight loss on the five-game road trip that, mercifully, concludes Saturday night in Miami.
"(Saturday) is a pride game," said Linas Kleiza, the starting forward who finished with 4 points and 2 rebounds in 23 minutes. "After a loss like this, you’ve got to come out … We’d better. We feel bad about this loss. Nobody here feels anywhere close to decent right now … Everybody is messed up. So we’d better come out and lay everything we have and see what happens."
What happened on Friday night wasn’t all bad. The Raptors only trailed 47-41 at the half. But the Magic outscored the Raptors 26-16 in the third quarter, wherein Howard outgunned the Raptors starters 17-10. Toronto would trail by 25 before the fourth quarter was three minutes old. And at that point, facing another tipoff in less than 22 hours, Triano shelved starters and essentially conceded defeat. Howard, for his part, didn’t see any action in the final frame.
Bargnani had trouble getting his midrange jumper to fall, connecting on just 3-of-14 shots from the field. It allowed Howard to stay inside the paint, and the Magic star wasn’t whistled for his first foul until the 2:23 mark in the second quarter.
Howard had his double-double in the opening 24 minutes, collecting 14 points and 12 rebounds. Entering the final quarter, Howard had as many points at the entire Raptors starting five (31) and had outrebounded all of them, 19-to-17.
The Orlando Magic escaped with a 40-point win on Friday night at home against the pride of Canada, the Toronto Raptors, by a score of 112-72.
After only being up 8 at the half, the Magic upped their intensity and shut down the Raps in the second half behind a beastly 17 point 3rd quarter from Dwight Howard. Dwight finished the night with 31 points and 19 rebounds and would have likely dropped 40 if he wouldn’t have been pulled for the night at the end of the third. A 39 point 4th quarter from the Magic sealed the blowout.
When the Raptors defeated the Magic back in November, they were unable to stop the former number one overall pick Andrea Bargnani. Bargs dropped 27 on the Magic that night to help Toronto pull the early season upset. It was an entire different story tonight as Brandon Bass smothered Andrea all night and held him to only 11 points on 3-14 shooting.
Brandon Bass, who stands at 6-foot-7, was matched up with 7-footer Andrea Bargnani Friday night in the Orlando Magic’s game vs. the Toronto Raptors, a less-than-ideal matchup for the relatively undersized Bass.
“He’s a big boy,” Bass said after the game, exhaling shortly after.
Bass was ready for it, though — just like he is every matchup. That’s because Bass prepares for every game like he never has before, studying film and working with Magic coach Stan Van Gundy on a detailed scouting report to stop the opponents’ power forward.
“I’m starting at power forward now, so I can’t just play,” Bass said. “I’m playing against all-stars and really good players, so I’m trying to be one step ahead by watching extra film on them.
“I went to the video guys, and a lot of the teams the best players are the power forwards. So I study the things I have to do, and see if I can stop those things by being tougher on them.”
The extra work paid off Friday night.
Bass held Bargnani to 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting, contesting almost every shot and staying right in Bargnani’s chest. Despite the massive size disadvantage, Bass was able to neutralize Toronto’s best player.
Bargnani is averaging 21.5 points per game and shooting 46.3 percent on the season.
“Brandon’s defense on Bargnani was as good as it possibly could be,” Van Gundy said. “He stayed down on his shot fakes, he put some pressure on him and got into him – he couldn’t have done a lot more.”
Orlando’s gameplan tonight was, pretty transparently, to attack the Raptors in transition, when their defense is still scrambling to pick up their assignments. Jameer Nelson really put on a show here, pushing the tempo aggressively and getting to the rim for scores, or to draw defenders, with ease. Though he missed 8 of his 12 shot attempts, Nelson orchestrated the halfcourt and transition offenses to near perfection, finishing with 8 assists. At every opportunity, he and Hedo Turkoglu looked to deliver the ball to Howard under the goal before the Raptors could get set. Though Howard got off to a rough start, shooting 6-of-14 before halftime, he and his teammates stuck with the game plan, and it eventually paid off.
Orlando didn’t do anything truly special here; it took control simply by exploiting its biggest mismatch against Toronto, which happens to be Howard’s interior play against the Raptors’ undersized or otherwise ill-suited defenders. Howard did darn near whatever he pleased whenever he had Bargnani, Johnson, or Joey Dorsey on his back, particularly in the second half, when Orlando pulled away for good.
The Magic’s offense wasn’t gangbusters all game, though, as it managed 47 first-half points against a usually porous Raptors defense. A lot of that is due to Howard simply missing easy shots, sure, but its perimeter players never really found their shooting strokes, either. Anderson scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, with the game already well in hand. Essentially, the Magic put this game away by giving the ball to Howard and getting the heck out of the way on one end, while taking away all of Toronto’s viable offensive options at the other. Pretty elementary stuff, but also quite effective.
Toronto will need guys like Andrea Bargnani to step up and play up to their potential. It’s been a fairly consistent season for Bargnani who is usually good for around 20 points, but he’s had a rough week. In the Raptors three games since Monday he has scored just a total of 36 points (11, 14 and 11), shooting just 25.4% from the field (13-of-51). On the season Bargnani ranks 6th in the Eastern Conference in points, putting up 21.5 points per game.
The Heat will likely be without Chris Bosh for the 2nd straight game as their starting power forward is nursing a sprained left ankle. It’s not surprising to me that Miami is being cautions and keeping Bosh out because the timing is actually pretty good for him to miss time. Tonight is the Heat’s first game in four nights and after this one they are going to be off for another five nights, so there is ample time for Bosh to get better without missing much game time.
Van Gundy claimed that other big men take to flopping when Howard backs them down under the basket — not an altogether unsound defensive strategy when playing the league’s most dominant center — and Howard picks up unnecessary fouls as a result.
"I want to see people stand up and play people like men and see who the better player is," Van Gundy said. "But some guys don’t want to play that way."
Friday night, the visiting Raptors played like men — or at least they tried to — and by the end of the evening, they almost certainly regretted it. Toronto cut the flopping and defended Howard straight up, but if they know what’s good for them, they’ll go back to hitting the deck next time around.
Because a mostly-undeterred Howard scored 31 points and grabbed 19 boards — while only picking up one personal foul — as the Magic used a huge second half to propel themselves to a 112-72 win at the Amway Center.
"It was nice to have one like that after having a lot of close games in a row," Van Gundy said in the understatement of the season.
The Magic led just 47-41 at the half, but Howard scored 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds — a game’s worth of damage for a lot of NBA players — in the third quarter alone.
Just how dominant was Howard? Raptors coach Jay Triano may have said it best.
"He’s good," Triano said. "We’re not."
These cases are difficult to prove, and the league office is obligated to withhold approval of the trade until it presumably checks into the charges. Several sources expect the trade to likely go through, however, there was no clear indication of just how serious the NBA is considering vetoing the deal except that league officials had initially refused to rubber-stamp it.
“When teams complain, the league checks it out,” one front-office executive said.
The Raptors agreed to a contract buyout with Stojakovic on Thursday that would allow the veteran forward to sign as a free agent once he cleared waivers. To create a roster spot for Stojakovic – who had almost immediately committed to the Mavericks – Dallas agreed to send the Raptors the 7-foot Ajinca, a future second-round pick and cash to Toronto for the rights to Georgios Printezis.
When reached by email on Friday, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban denied there had been an illegal prearranged deal.
Ajinca cleared the roster spot necessary for Stojakovic to sign with Dallas, but what’s considered against NBA rules would be a previously arranged buyout and promise to sign with Dallas coupled with Ajinca’s trade. Several other West contenders also were interested in signing Stojakovic.
“We did not protest it, but it was clearly a side-arranged deal which is not supposed to be allowed,” one Western Conference executive told Yahoo! Sports.
Said one Eastern Conference executive: “I’m not surprised they’ve held it up. They made it too obvious.”