Plenty of things have become familiar for the Raptors during their franchise history, but being able to coast for 24 minutes and still comfortably collect a win is new. The Raptors took out the Magic 105-90 in a game that eerily mirrored Friday’s win over Cleveland: forgettable first half, nice run in the third quarter, cruise to a win. The Raptors are shooting 76% from the field over the last two third quarters, which is quite good. Of course, it is not the type of habit coach Dwane Casey would like his team to adopt. However, he did not even seem to be fully invested, refusing to hammer his team for the pattern. “Fighting human nature, is what I call it,” Casey said. “You look at their [17-41] record. You look at [swingman Arron Afflalo] being out. They just bought out [Glen] Davis. Human nature is what you’re fighting more than anything.”
The number that jumps out of the boxscore following this one is the 24 turnovers the Raptors committed, which was a season high for them. Still Casey wasn’t going to over react. “Some of it was the messiness and sloppiness in the first half,” Casey said. “Some of it was trying to do too much. Fighting human nature is what I call it. You look at their record, you look at them having their top player out. They just bought out Glen Davis, so human nature is what you’re fighting more than anything else.” Through a half, the Raptors owned a four-point lead on a Magic team that has won three games away from home all season. But in the third Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan found their offensive games and the rout was on.
In the third quarter, Kyle Lowry happened. To be fair, Lowry didn’t do it alone. Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan both came out of the locker room to open the second half with a little extra bounce in their step. Toronto’s wings combined to score the Raptor’s first 18 points of the half. This seemed to flick a switch in Lowry’s head, as he went on to score 17 of his game-high 28 points in the last six and a half minutes of the third quarter. Lowry ended the quarter with a step-back, fading three pointer at the buzzer, extending the Raptors lead to 15. Dagger. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, momentum was clearly in favour of the Raptors. Orlando couldn’t manage to close the gap, as Lowry and DeRozan continued to carry the offensive load for Toronto.
There was no bigger All-Star snub in the Eastern Conference than Kyle Lowry. He’s been the best point guard in the East and he proved it against Orlando with a scintillating offensive performance, in which he was drilling 3s and getting to the free throw line at will. Lowry finished with 28 points (7-for-13 shooting from the floor), including 17 in the third quarter.
Tobias Harris led the Magic with a season-high-tying 28 points and six rebounds, bedeviling Toronto with his ability to create for himself off the bounce. E’Twaun Moore added 16 points off the bench, aiding a Magic team which got precious little perimeter scoring elsewhere: Jameer Nelson surpassed Shaquille O’Neal on the Magic’s all-time scoring list, but otherwise had a forgettable night, going 4-of-9 for nine points. Victor Oladipo, who flanked Nelson in the Magic’s staring backcourt, didn’t at all resemble dynamo who made history on Friday, going 4-of-13 himself for 11 points and failing to make a significant impact at either end of the floor.
“Like I told our guys, we’re going to have a lot of games where we’re going to have to grind it out,” Casey said. “For whatever reason we struggle in the first half [and] come through, turn it on [in the second half], but I think that’s also a little bit of growth on our part. I’ve seen times when it had been a struggle for close to 40 minutes.” The Raptors have indeed turned a corner in that regard, establishing themselves as a lethal second-half club. Toronto has outscored, or tied, its opponent in the second half in 13 straight contests, holding teams to 39 per cent shooting and besting them by 91 total points during that stretch. Since the season-altering trade of Rudy Gay, the Raptors lead the NBA in second-half point differential, outscoring foes by 216 points, 47 more than the second-ranked Indiana Pacers. Led by its dynamic backcourt, Toronto missed just two of its 14 field goal attempts in the third, besting the Magic 36-24 and turning a three-point halftime lead into a 15-point advantage going into the fourth.
That’s the problem with our industry: patience,” says Coach Casey at the tail end of a February practice following a gruelling nine-day West Coast road trip where the Raps went a disappointing 2-3. “People want instant NBA stars, and that’s not going to happen. I don’t care what college players are out there, it’s going to take them time to come in this league and become stars. You’ve got too many veteran players right now who know the nuances of the NBA. “That’s what’s taken DeMar this time. He’s been a favourite of mine since I got here because I see the potential he has, and it’s probably taken a while because he’s had other guys here in front of him. He had Chris Bosh in front of him. Andrea, then they brought Rudy. But in defence of those guys, it has taken DeMar a little while to grow into this role. Now it’s his.”
Hit me with any Raptors-related articles: [email protected]