This, along with the home game against Minnesota, were the two games so far this year that the Raptors were favored to win, and that’s exactly what they did with a convincing fourth quarter run.

These are the kind of games where you can judge Dwane Casey, where can match the other team’s talent level. He didn’t need to pull out any magical schemes. Basic pick-and-roll executed properly against some really bad defense did the trick.

The Raptors did step up their defensive intensity in the deciding moments of the game, so that’s something to take away for a team that has taken a step back from last year in this regard.

Let’s go quarter-by-quarter:

First quarter

Raptors got off to a good start due to stagnant Orlando offense. You could see that some matchups favor the home team. One advantage was Dominic McGuire frustrating Arron Afflalo with his length advantage. Afflalo looked good in Denver, but being the main guy has exposed his flaws. There’s a Joey Graham-esque vibe to his game, and that’s not a great thing.

Jameer Nelson could have helped the Magic by getting into the lane, having the quickness advantage over Jose Calderon. But partly due to Calderon’s determined defense and Nelson’s passiveness, this first quarter was a struggle for the Magic due to a lot of isolation plays.

Jonas Valunciunas isn’t a pogo stick. Let’s just keep it at that.

With a lot of eyes trained on him, Andrea Barganani had a good start offensively. But the Magic should have got the memo: Don’t bite on that pump fake. Credit goes to the Raptor offense for finding him later in the shot clock where guys were kind of running out on him, leaving them vulnerable to the fake, but that’s basic preparation that’s missing from the Orlando coaching staff. They did seem to settle down as the game wore on.

Jose kept up his quality play, and taking advantage of another questionable Orlando decision to run under screens for him. He made them pay with a couple of open threes.

Back to Valunciunas. It is early in the season, but how about hitting him when he’s rolling to the basket? Wasn’t that a big part of his skill set in Europe?

JJ Reddick is missing from the Orlando lineup. He’s no Dirk, but the Raptors have been pretty lucky in this regard. He may have changed the dynamic of this game.

Starting to realize that noone on this team can cover this latest version of DeMar DeRozan. The stepback jumper is hard to guard regardless, but DeMar also has the size advantage over Afflalo. Noone else on the team can guard him either. Looks like a $10 mill player today. The key word being today.

E`Twaan Moore hits a couple of easy threes over John Lucas. That`s not a good matchup, and Lucas should be right up in his grill if he really has to guard him. He will be in this predicament on many nights as long as he is the backup.

Second quarter

Looks like the pre-game pep talk from coach Casey is starting to wear off. Bargnani starts chucking from pretty much anywhere on the court. He`s hearing Kyle Lowry`s footsteps.

Bargs gets the benefit of an off-the-ball call. Trying to remember the last time he got called the other way? Fouls do indicate some level of aggression, don`t they.

Looking at the current lineup for the Magic and there`s three rookies on the floor. This should turn into a blowout soon, but the Magic hang on to that 10 point deficit.

Linas Kleiza comes into the game. You can see he`s a little jacked for what has to be the first Lithuania night ever in the NBA.

Both teams are hoisting a lot of tough shots. Coaches must be going crazy.

Glen Davis takes advantage of a leaner front line with Ed Davis and makes some nice plays to keep the Raptors within reach. He uses his body well and is deceptively quick.

That`s two games in a row now where Ed Davis is not fucking around. Enough of that weak elbow jumper from last year. He`s attacking the rim strong and chasing hard on the offensive glass.

The height advantage is clearly in the Raptors` favor. Orlando is not doing themselves any favors by trying to go inside.

If anything, the Toronto Raptors are clearly the class of the league in blocking practise shots by the opposing team after the whistle. Because, you know, that shot going in will change everything mentally.

Third quarter

Arron Afflalo is decidedly more aggressive to start the second half. He draws a bunch of free throws and starts a mini-run for Orlando.

So the Raptors avoided a bad start, however they start off slow in the third quarter instead. It`s probably more of a personnel issue than it is intensity, but that probably won`t change until Lowry is back. Jose needs to realize he`s the engine of this offense and come out more assertive in these situations.

Oh look, Bargnani is shooting deep jumpers like it`s going out of style, again.

Dominic McGuire has a good stretch here. He seems like a good low maintenance glue guy, but is he an upgrade over James Johnson? Less athleticism, but better shot.

Valunciunas is showing off that motor. Some key rebounds and showing he can finish against a team with no real inside presence. This Raptor offense has shown a tendency to disappear for long stretches. Having Val create second chances could help alleviate some of that.

Here comes Orlando again. Three-point play for Mississauga product Andrew Nicholson brings Orlando to within one. Could be a decent addition to the national team.

This is where Amir Johnson takes a charge to preserve a 65 – 63 lead, and begins taking over the game in a way we haven`t seen from him before.

67 – 66. Orlando finally takes the lead after Jameer Nelson catches DeMar napping on a screen-and-roll. Nelson finally playing like he needs to, establishing his drive, and then hitting his jumper over Calderon once he gets some space.

Fourth quarter

The play of the game: Jose to Amir for a monster jam and a technical for slapping the glass. Pulls Toronto into a 71 – 71 tie, and the crowd is buzzing.

Orlando responds by trying to post up. It looks like they are going after Bargnani, but he`s long and quick. His real problem is reacting to almost any other situation defensively.

Threes by Kleiza and AMIR(!) help open up a Raptor lead.

Bad decision making from Jameer Nelson and even worse pick-and-roll defense from Big Baby. You take Amir rolling to the basket or you hedge hard on Jose. This is like watching the Jay Triano edition of the Raptors.

Raps clearly have have upped the intensity level. After a few forced plays, Magic guards try feeding the ball to cutters but they are tightly marked by Raptors and turnovers result, one resulting in a nice alley-oop from Jose to DeMar.

Way too much respect for a Calderon dribble drive leaves Kleiza open on the baseline. Open three-ball makes it 92 – 78. How do you say Salami and Cheese in Lithuanian ?

So all is good for now in Raptorland. If the Raptors played down to the Magic`s level until the fourth quarter, that is another problem in itself, but at least they showed how their superiority when it counted. This was a game they sorely needed.

Other teams will not defend as poorly as Orlando did. Let`s not forget that 4th quarter in Indiana not very long ago. That being said, this game can serve as a springboard for Amir Johnson to play to his potential. Make no mistake though, it`s Jose Calderon that`s is carrying this team on his back right now.

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  • EmarErozan

    Only way McGuire has a better jumper than James Johnson is if he’s wearing a nicer sweater. McGuire is the worst jump shooter the raptors have ever had. He was lucky today. In general, he cannot hanlde a starting role.

    • EmarErozan

      Emar had another nice game!

      • Pesterm1

        D… for dickhead ūüėČ


      James Johnson relegated to a bench role in SAC.No more starting SF. It didn’t take long to understand he sucks !

      Ed Davis needs to go, he sucks as well

      • EmarErozan

        Not saying JJ is a starter, just that he’s better offensively in every way than McGuire.

        • Gregast

          Attitude matters and JJ had WAY too much of that.

      • Jamshid

        What was the draft pick that we gave up to get James Johnson for a season? Was a 2012 pick or was it 2013 ?

    • pran

      haha lol.

  • DryDry

    Yet again, hard working Toronto strippers who ent-tit-tained visiting teams until the wee hours of the night go uncredited as sixth (wo)men helping the Raptors win.

  • Nilanka15

    Raps “must” win 2 of next 3 versus Philly, Charlotte and Detroit.¬† And pray Lowry’s healthy in time for Sunday (vs. San Antonio).

    • Alb Perjet

      I think the Raptors must win the next three games…

      • Nilanka15

        Expecting 3 straight wins from this group might be asking too much, but then again, stranger things have happened….

        • KaioKev

          Naaaah its asking too much. You were right the first time.

    • pran

      conspiracy time: I think lowry is fine, and starting jose is an attempt to get andrea going, while showcasing them both at the same time before we ship them out in a 3 way trade for gayyyy/whoever.

      • cesco

         Take a look at for the top 2 players combination in yesterday games at , 2 good looking Euros , ah ah ah . You guys are living in a fantasy world where Millsap/Gay is the new Raps savior . Come back to earth and watch the Raps fight for a playoffs spot with these twos .

        • Nilanka15

          You mean the same way these two fought last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the year before…?

          • cesco

            This team , if it can escape major injuries for the rest of the season will be better than any of those teams but all it can do is fight for a play-off spot due to the high quality of the teams in the Eastern conference .

        • Destro

          you epitomize whats wrong with this team and organization….

        • pran

          Phase 1 in progress ūüėČ

        • Afimi Sinting

          here we go

        • Statement


    • Destro

      and you know what,i think they going to lose 2 of em maybe all 3…

    • Roarque

      Raps will win 2/3 but imo they should win all three. The team is¬†jell-ing under Jose’s last gasp at the Raptors History Book. I mean did you see the way he works with Amir? Those two need to be traded as a tandem. Like the Sedin twins in Vancouver.

      Jose and Amir – Danny Devito¬†and Awenold –¬†seperated at birth!

      • Nilanka15

        lol, the original “odd couple”.

  • Slap Dog Hoops

    His play was not that great, but Casey just needs to keep playing Valanciunas.  The more minutes he gets, the better that he will become.

    • 300milesaway

      Imma be honest,ive been underwhelmed by Valanciunas so far…I know his mins havent been consistent for a variety of reasons but i onno from what ive seen i thought he’d be better…I thought his offensive game would be WAAAY more polished than it is. I mean he was being touted as being pretty polished from playing years professionally and its just not there….he cant hit anything outside 5 feet and his post game looks kinda elementary too…

      I thought he’d be more like Anthony Davis is right now….Im still waiting for him to have that break out game where he dominates on both ends and im not sure i’ll see it…

      • Nilanka15

        He motor has been as advertised.¬† But you have to admit, he seems to pick up a lot of “are you kidding me???” calls.¬† It’s like the refs have labelled him as foul prone, and are trigger happy with their whistles.

        Offensively, I think his biggest knock is that he rushes.¬† Whether it’s his post-up attempts, or his foul line jumper, he’s playing too quickly instead of taking a moment to read and react to the defense.¬† Once his adjusts his “mental game speed”, I think we’ll see a more productive player.

        • unknown guest

          No to mention of possessions wherein he rolls hard to basket with no one covering him, he hardly ever gets the ball. The few times I noticed JC passing to him is when he’s down low and covered.

          • Destro

            Hes not gonna get the ball just cuz he rolls hard to the basket,he has to show he can finish consistently before his teammates start feeding him…Its like hes not getting quality mins but part of that is HIS fault cuz hes not doing anything out there to distinguish himself…he needs to finish more and be more assertive for Casey to trust him…

        • 300milesaway

          IM the opposite side of the fouls,i think he earns most of those fouls,hes foul prone who hasnt learned yet you cant challenge every attempt at the basket you have to pick ur spots or youll foul out by halftime….I be saying are you kidding me why are you taking so many silly ass fouls that are not shots on the rim…I blame him moreso than the officials,hes kinda careless like Araujo was with hacking guys away from the basket….

          Motor is a nice catch phrase but i dont get sucked into that shit,motor is useless if your larry ass leadfoot and dont know when to take it down to 3rd gear to be productive…

        • Lorenzo

          ¬†Yeah it sorta seems like he’s rushing to put the ball up, and then run quickly back on defense without even attempting to get his own rebound.

          He might be nervous or something. But this will all eventually go away and he’ll be playing comfortably soon. And as we all know, comfortable = productive.

      • Arsenalist

        I don’t know where you heard his offensive game was polished. ¬†If you saw any of the Olympic qualifying or any other international tournament, you’d know that his offensive game, even by by European standards, was considered raw. ¬†His sell point was always defense and he’s doing OK thus far.

        If anything, I’m actually surprised by his little jumper and those hooks he’s able to make now and again.¬†

        • 300milesaway

          He was making jumpers over there and his moves were alot more fluid than he has shown in the NBA…I hope it just the nerves of playing in a better league…Lets not lie to ourselves and say the sell point on¬†him is defense,were not talking about Anthony Davis…Truthfully his D is ok but he makes a ton of rookie mistakes i might not expect to see from a guy whos played professionally…Sell point is the fact he will rebound and¬†his offensive game has high upside..

          Dont tell me were high on the kid cuz of defense,We want a 20/10 guy who plays some D and blocks some shots not Ben fuckn Wallace…¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

          • Lorenzo

            ¬†He’s nervous.

            U kiddin me? I would kill a man to have a Ben Wallace on this team…

          • hater

            “he makes a ton of rookie mistakes”

            well last time i checked he is a rookie u dumb fk

          • EmarErozan

            Yes, he had unlearned Jump shooting since then. And he should not get the ball because he rolls hard because that opens tons of space and he’s usually open and has proven to be a good finisher.

        • 300milesaway

          Also was his off game anymore raw than AD ? and look at what hes doing offensively,i think it comes down to his off skills were somewhat overrated and he is not asserting himself coupled with his teammates and coach dont trust him yet…but the point of my post was i expected him to be doing what Davis is doing¬†right now not what Miles Leonard is doing right now…¬†

          • cesco

             Keep trolling Destro , keep trolling .

            • 300milesaway

              THIS coming from the guy who defends trash simply because of a shared ethnicity..good luck with that.

              • cesco

                In my old country , there is an old saying , ” Dog that bark does not bite ” . Your comments are like that dog barks .

                • 300milesaway

                  Who gives a shit about a generic and dated saying from your old country….

                  Not i

                • Guest

                  And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that Destro’s small¬†neckbeard¬†grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of the RR comments section came through, and Destro figured out how to use a door and went outside.

                • Ihatehaters


      • j bean

        JV has had record setting offensive performances in lots of big games. 36 points in the world championship under 19. His first game with his country’s senior men’s team 26 points. Those kind of numbers make me think he will be a good finisher if he gets more passes after his picks.

        • Destro

          Those are meaningless,what he does in the NBA is what matters…da fck i could drop 20 in those games EASILY…¬†

          • Lorenzo


            • Lorenzo

              Sit down, take a deep breath, and recollect yourself……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    • Gregast

      I agree with JT – burn on the floor will eventually allow him to relax and get his bearings. From my perspective he appears very nervous which is totally understandable. Coming from Europe at his age and with his skill set I would be nervous too. BUT his energy level, his reaction time, his strength in the post is awesome. He intimidates players like Roy Hibbert and Big Baby because they know he’s better than they were at his age.

      Did I mention his attitude. Team first, prepared to learn, angry at himself when he has a set back. If only AB had those characteristics in year one.

      Bottom line – JV is worth the price of admission.

  • Statement

    Bargnani Sucks……#Trolling.¬†

    But I’m being serious. I haven’t been a Bargani fan since 2006-2007.¬†

    On the brighter side of things, 9 rebs for Derozan.  Keep it up, good sir.

    • cesco

       You are soft like Matt52 , a few good games by Andrea and you will be ready to apologize , admit it .

      • Matt52

         Actually a few good games by Bargnani will only further infuriate and bring in to question when he will get bored again.

        You can’t teach heart and desire just like you can’t teach character and integrity.¬† On the basketball court Bargnani does not exhibit any of these qualities (please notice I said on the basketball court, I am sure AB is a fine person off the court and I do not mean to attack him personally – just professionally).

        • Lorenzo

          ¬†Hard work beats talent, when talent don’t work hard.

      • Afimi Sinting

        Cesco to the AB13 backsliders

      • Statement

        Actually, I’ve been down on Bargs since his 2nd year when I realized he sucks.

        Soft jumpshooters do not make good big men, you need good big men to win in the league, period.

        I wish you could check comment history and see that I was shitting on that guy 5 years ago.

        • sleepz

          No need to defend yourself. You already saw long ago what some are coming around to notice now.

          Some posters don’t like the truth about him, but if it was Demar, Amir, JV, etc playing like that they would call them out in a heartbeat.

          Only difference is¬†Andrea’s not any different than the player we’ve seen the past 7 years other than his offence is struggling mightily¬†right now so the other stuff he doesn’t do becomes so much more heightened and obvious to the fanbase that the avalanche of animosity towards him is growing and growing.

          I actually feel bad for him. Colangelo is the one who should be put out of his misery first and foremost. Andrea is a product of poor team management and no belly fire. That being said, he should still be on the trading block cuz he simply doesn’t fit with the current roster (although I can’t tell you what kind of team this is really,lol).

          • mountio

            “Only difference is¬†Andrea’s not any different than the player we’ve seen the past 7 years other than his offence is struggling mightily¬†right now so the other stuff he doesn’t do becomes so much more heightened and obvious to the fanbase that the avalanche of animosity towards him is growing and growing. ”

            Thats a pretty big “only difference”. The guy is a career 44% shooter (resonably consistent over the years), hes shooting under 35% this year. Thats the difference a good player and a very, very bad player. The Andrea we had every year up until now (maybe ex his 2nd year) I would have on my team any time. The guy weve had so far this year is pretty brutal

            • cesco

              Good point you made , obviously some of us hope he will return to that form . The comment I made to Statement is along the lines of the team improving and him being a main contributor to the improvement . The possibility is there if the injury bug spare the main players and the rooks keep improving . After all some of the games we lost could have been won with a bit of luck and had the refs been neutral .

              • Destro

                Its too bad Andrea doesnt have DeRozans work ethic,if he did who knows how much better he could be right now…

                Demar as the team leader should be showing players underneath him what it takes to be able to take ur game to another level and show heart and desire to be greater,hopefully that rubs off on Andrea and all his fans can see a better player…

                • Matt52

                  ¬†I don’t think there is any question who the leader is: Lowry.¬† I can’t wait for him to get back.

            • sleepz

              Oh don’t get me wrong. I’m not making any excuses for him. To be honest with you 44% from your 4 is not good either, especially when you’re taking 16-18 shots a game and don’t do anything else. Not a fan of his game and think he needs to be on a team where there is no question that he is your 5th or 6th best player to thrive.

              Right now he’s treated like a first or second option in the offence and he’s neither.¬† ¬†

              • Hound

                what do you think we could get for him in a trade? could we improve the team by trading him?

                • The Truth

                  Probably about 40 Tim Bits, so yes we would improve the team by trading him.

      • Afimi Sinting

        preach to the backsliders Cesco preach to matt,mark,luke and john

  • Gregast

    How do you steal Bernie Bickerstaff away from Los Angeles now that D’Antoni has arrived? Pretty amazing ( and short ) track record as a head coach in the NBA.

    Don’t get me wrong – Dwane is my head coach but BB needs some respect, and a place to land on his feet.