Magic 83, Raptors 98 – Box

[Read Will’s Quick Reaction featuring an image which took him three hours to Photoshop]

Routine. Home. Wins. I love them. They may not be as exciting as nerve-racking wins in a NY borough, against a shocked crowd in OKC, in front of an aghast Mark Cuban in Dallas, or in a dead-silent United Center, but that doesn’t mean there’s not something to be enjoyed here. A game against one of the league’s worst should be a simple matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and when those dots and crosses are administered in a professional, no-nonsense manner it speaks to the team’s focus in not looking past an opponent and living up to an ever-growing positive reputation. This game is only a story if lost, and since that calamity didn’t befall the Raptors, this analysis is respectfully curt as the reader’s time is valuable.

Party for Three
The Raptors hit eight three-pointers in the first quarter, and hit 11 of their first 12 threes. The stretch of nine straight was the first time they made that many consecutive threes since February 2005 against the Lakers.

With Patrick Patterson ruled out due to a procedure done on his nose and DeMar DeRozan continuing his stint on the sidelines, the Raptors got a boost with the return of Tyler Hansbrough from a bone bruise.  The quality of the opponent and the flow of the game (Raptors always up big) meant he wasn’t quite needed, and Dwane Casey’s 4-minute spell for Hansbrough was all to do with giving him a jog ahead of the roadtrip rather than wanting him to perform.    The Magic (a name desperately in need of a “rebrand”) got a boost of their own with Nikola Vucevic returning a night after they got drubbed in Detroit.

A gentleman who looked like Jameer Nelson started for the Magic and I believe this play where Greivis Vasquez made him look like a statue illustrates the type of defense the Magic played.  They were defending the Raptors in a weird sort of cross-switch where Lowry was being guarded by Victor Oladipo and Arron Afflalo at random, with the chubby man resembling Jameer Nelson looking on eating what appeared to be a tasty chicken sandwich.  This self-induced dose of confusion by Orlando resulted in Kyle Lowry being afforded plentiful time and space which he converted to five threes in the first quarter, en route to 33 points and 11 assists.

With DeRozan out, Vasquez got the start and three things intersected which opened up the Raptors offense, and consequently Lowry:

  1. They fed the ball to Jonas Valanciunas consistently to give the Magic defense something inside to worry about.  He had 15 points and 14 rebounds (8 pts, 7 reb came in the fourth) to celebrate his selection to the Rookie-Soph game – hear his reaction.
  2. Vasquez played the point, orchestrating the offense, which allowed Lowry to roam the perimeter and get open
  3. The Magic put their poorest perimeter defenders on Vasquez instead of Lowry, which turned out to be a mistake because Vasquez picked the defense apart

This was the engine that fuelled the Raptors offense to shooting 50% in the first half (11-14 from three) and going up by 15 at the break. That and the defense where I’d like to single out Terrence Ross (although Valanciunas and Johnson are worthy as well).  He’s credited with zero steals and two blocks which doesn’t reflect the quality of his defending.  He did very well to position himself in the passing lanes making point-to-wing and big-to-wing passes difficult, got deflections which disrupted the Orlando offense (not that they’re fluent to begin with), and pressured without fouling.  He even held Arron Afflalo down when that matchup called upon him.

Amir Johnson (despite blowing this dunk) showed signs of life being guarded by Baby Davis, going for 22 points and 11 rebounds.  It doesn’t take much analysis to figure out that he’s best when he’s near the rim (as his shot chart indicates).  He looked a little more enthused, especially in the second half where people were looking to play the two-man game with him.  The result? Eight of his 10 fields goals were assisted on: here’s a video of his made field goals on the night.  Please notice the rebound Kyle Lowry gets on the last play in that video.  That is why I want this guy in Toronto.

As for Johnson, we would have even done without him on a night where the only reason the Magic weren’t down by 30 was because the Raptors didn’t run up the score, at one point deploying a lineup of Stone, Hayes, Novak, Vasquez and Salmons.  However, on this five-game, gut-check roadtrip, we’re going to need Johnson and Hansbrough if we’re to come back with a positive record, so when he appeared to sprain his angle I was a bit worried. He later cleared any concerns up by describing it as a “regular old ankle sprain. I’ll be all right.” Let’s hope they’re ready in time for Friday’s test against the Nuggets in that bloody thin air.

This game was never in doubt with the Raptors going up by as many as 19 in the second half, so a timeline analysis isn’t needed.

I’m giving the final word to Jonas Valanciunas (video compilation of his shots vs Magic), who has been taking some criticism of late for missing the basics of the game, being indecisive and generally doing things that a second-year player does.  He had a huge game against the smaller Magic front line and, as the quotes from this article point out, his game is coming along with the help of veterans like Chuck Hayes.  Hayes said:

“It takes about five years — four or five years. You just learn through experience. You learn through veterans. You see so many different sets. You learn how to pick out guys’ tendencies. A lot of it is just talking. You have to talk.”

Casey on Jonas:

“He’s getting better. He still has a way to go, just understanding and having confidence. He has lulls where he doesn’t do it like any young player does. He’s learning from Chuck. … He’s better than he was.  The other guys have done a good job of helping Jonas out and directing him in certain situations.”

The Raps also failed to score with pizza on the line and HogyG provides a solution to that (includes video).

Steve’s coming up with his podcast in a bit, funky intro and all. There’s also a mid-season award piece in the afternoon and probably more. Raps win as they should have. Life is good.

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    Definitely made for some chill viewing and a great result.

  • Ion66

    Amir has magic ankles, and may not be human.

  • RapsExpat

    “…with the chubby man resembling Jameer Nelson looking on eating what appeared to be a tasty chicken sandwich.”

    – Really funny 🙂

  • ckh26

    Yes it is always nice to get a laugher served up and make good on it. We sure did lay a beatdown on Orlando. Still love the intensity that was the Nets game over the laughers but a blend of both is great.

    Next up is the 5 game road swing and first in line are the Nuggets ! We owe these guys for all the laughers we were the butt end of courtesy of Denver over the past few years. Things looking good for us as Lawson has a Rotator Cuff injury which will force the Mile High boys to go with a combo of Nate Robinson / Randy Foye at the PG. They can’t break us down like Lawson can and are not as fast. Plus Nate is good for a meltdown every now and again. McGee is out. Andre Miller is looking to get his ticket punched to get out of town. Like our odds to take the 1st one up on the road swing.

    • raptorstand

      Seems Nate kills us every game.

      • ckh26

        Yeah I remember that Sunday game earlier in the year as well. Since then one thing has changed and one thing has not. Nate is still wildly undisciplined. It what makes him. The raps now play a much more disciplined defensive game. Nate doesn’t do well in those circumstances. Its why he is on his 4th or 5th team. Karma for us on Friday. Nate goes up in flames and the Raps win by 8.

        • raptorstand

          I think we were up 20 in that game and Nate came on the floor and torched us over and over again, and that was against the disciplined defensive game.

          • ckh26

            Nope.. we lost to the Nuggets with the still fully “Rudified” lineup in early December.

    • GLF

      I think Nate is injured as well. That would really help.

  • Nilanka15

    The Denver game worries me. We always seem to struggle with that high altitude.

    • GetLicks

      We’re due for a win in Denver, and Lawson is questionable. Nuggets are a different team (worse) without him. I think we have a good shot at leaving with a W this time

    • afrocarter

      “high altitude” I see what you did there.

  • morgan c

    I have realized I just need to be more patient with JV. I’ve called him out in the past, and questioned what I view as the way-too-comfortable assumption that this guy is just going to be amazing. He has a lot of hard work in front of him if he wants to become an all-star level player. I was encouraged by the way he finished strong last night (8 and 7 in 4Q), but the other side is how Vucevic took him to school in the first half. It wasn’t that JV was bad, just that a guy like Vucevic was better at times. He can do what JV does, but he hits the jumper perfectly. But sure, overall, JV outplayed him, which is necessary if he wants to become a great center in this league.

    1) Hold the ball HIGH in post and learn how to finish more consistently with both hands. He’s a solid post player already, and this one simple adjustment will make him quasi-dominant (assuming he gets stronger and fills out even more which should come since he’s super young still).
    2) Keep learning defensively, as Hayes says. It will come. But the lapses also have to do with being mentally tough, and I’d like to see him continue to stay sharp for the whole game. Make mistakes at full speed, not by being slow to react.
    3) Work on that jumper in the off-season.
    4) Continue to box out on defensive rebounds, rather than rely on size and athleticism.

    I just give him shit because it’s clear that he really can become great IF he works his ass off to improve. What is frustrating is when he makes the SAME mistakes over and over. If you watch carefully, it’s not really on Casey with the ‘quick hook,’ it’s more on JV, when he gets the ball swiped from him because he’s unaware down low. When you have no dribble / are doubled, the ball stays above your waist and it just becomes so much easier! Come on man, you can do it!

  • AnthonyF

    Damn another article & the byline isn’t TimW….. I anxiously await the Raptors tripping (not!!!!) on this road trip and TmW writing again……..

    Interesting winning by 15 and not doing a whole lot and it being just another day at the office……..

  • Lyall

    Bloody thin air? Are you kidding? The air is going to be so thick with weed that none of the players are going to want to suit up! Hehehhhhhhhh…. *bubble bubble*…

    • afrocarter

      Adds some extra meaning to their team name. Think about it. “Nuggets”.