I had to write the recap for this? Totally forgot but since I did watch bits of the game, albeit with an infant hanging around, I believe I possess sufficient authority to comment. You can take a couple different angles to this one, the most popular being that the Raptors should have comfortably won against a Magic team that is, frankly, terrible. On the other hand, you could commend the Raptors for pulling one off against a team that had beaten two playoff sides in Portland and Charlotte, and boasted a respectable 17-18 home record coming into this one.

[Read: Quick Reaction – Raptors @ Magic]

After the high of beating Boston and clinching the playoffs, Orlando could be seen as a potential pitfall instead of a routine trampling. In the second quarter, Steve Novak, Landry Fields, and Nando De Colo combined for 11 points as the Raptors won the second 30-11 and entered halftime with a comfortable 19 point lead. The half saw the return of Landry Fields into the lineup and the swingman looked fresh as a spring daisy all night dropping a modest yet effective 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assists and 1 block in a 17 minute spell that can best be described as encouraging.

With Salmons struggling again and Terrence Ross inexplicably on the bench instead of checking Victor Oladipo (16 points, 7-12 FG), Casey called upon Fields who looked to be up for it. This is obviously a good sign with the playoffs fast approaching and the Raptors wing depth being called into question of late. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were chugging along shooting a low percentage, so it’s good that Valanciunas gave the offense a much-needed interior left. I have visually transcribed his entire offensive game here:

What you don’t see in that video is that he was guarding Nikola Vucevic, whose 22 points were offset well by Valanciunas. Casey usually has Valanciunas guard the weaker opposition front court player, but chose to stick him on Vucevic this time. Last night, we’ll say that he played defense by having a good offensive game, if that makes any sense. He made Vucevic work and in the end it was an offensive wash, which basically means that the Magic’s best player had little net impact.

The third was a disaster, not so much offensively because you expect the team to go through dry spells, but defensively. The retaining wall of the Raptors success has been their defense and when you let Orlando shoot a whopping 67% in a quarter when they were coming in 19 down, it throws a wrench in the Raptors engine and speaks to the team stepping off the pedal. This late in the season teams like Orlando, with one eye on the Bahamas, usually whittle and die when they’re down by that much, so I almost, almost can’t blame the Raptors for letting up a little.

I think it’s a positive sign that the Raptors can be in second gear and still pull off road wins. A third quarter like the one they had would spell doom in the playoffs, so it’s good news that they have time to re-focus, get Patterson back, and hone in. They don’t have enough of a cushion in the standings to ease up, which I think is a good thing because it ensures that the team will be heading into the post-season playing meaningful basketball rather than playing out a string of inconsequential games where they have danger of losing form.

As it turned out, the game needed rescuing and who else but Kyle Lowry to do it. In the weekly pod we spoke about the reliance on Lowry and whether it’s a problem. In short, yes, it is, but that’s what big players are there for – having them rescue you when things aren’t going right is par for the course. Lowry had 9 points in the fourth quarter and DeMar DeRozan chipped in with 7 including a huge three from the corner which served to ice the game. I could gripe about the defense on Oladipo and why Ross wasn’t tasked with the job, but leave that for another day. Orlando did make a late run and had a chance to tie the game but Dwane Casey’s out-of-bounds defense struck again with a five-second violation which left Jacque Vaughan looking like an idiot (they’ve struggled with inbounding all season and they even took an extra timeout to set themselves up). Vaughan later called it, “just good defense by Toronto, denying the basketball in”. Below is the play:

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John Salmons almost turned the ball over after receiving the ball on another inbounds play, but luckily it got deflected off a Magic body, sparing the ex-King further blushes. The Raptors escape Orlando with a win, and the main regret here is that our players had a chance to take half a night off but were called into way too much action in the second half on a first night of a back-to-back. Lowry, Valanciunas and DeRozan played 36, 37, and 38 minutes respectively, which doesn’t leave much in the tank for tonight against Miami. I’ll leave the final words to Casey:

“We’re happy about the win, but cannot be satisfied about the way we got it.”

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  • Will

    How do you not find time for a guy who can do this, in addition to two steals, a block, and a layup in his first couple of minutes of the bench?


    Fields was probably visualizing Casey when he decided to posterize O’Quinn.

  • MoPeteRules

    i cheered loudly for landry when he got in the game. cheered even louder when he made a steal and a block within a few possessions. then proceeded to lose my shit when he threw down that dunk. i get that he can’t shoot, but: a) he plays passing lanes so well on defense, b) moves incredibly well without the ball, and c) crashes the boards after almost every shot. dude’s got energy and persistence, which i love and would love to see even more come playoffs

    • llaen

      Watch him actually be Casey’s secret weapon which he will unleash when the time is right, damn all scouting reports!

  • unknown

    That five second inbounding violation reminds me – I miss Rasual Butler so much.


  • pmoooneyy

    The defense fields played on that inbound is very impressive. I think Casey plays salmons in return to sleep with his wife because it makes no sense in my head why Salmons is getting playing time over fields.

  • jeeves

    raptors defense has been terrible since patterson has gone down. 105.1 df rtg.

    amir had another one of his “i’m apparently the heart and soul of this team, but im not gonna try tonight”-type games

    i hate that vasquez continues to get run over nando. vasquez is for the most part terrible defensively, and to be honest, he’s almost 100% not coming back next year. the minimum offer the raps can make him is $3+mil, and he’s gonna be looking for a raise on top of that (he’s delusional enough to think he should be a starting pg in the nba). raps can offer nando $1.8 mil and be pretty much assured he takes it. id much rather take nando and fields on defense than vasquez and salmons…and considering the defense has seen such a dramatic slide with patterson out of the lineup, i can do nothing but tip my cap to dwane casey for refusing to play those guys regularly. neither fields or nando got much run in the second half, and the raps gave up 26 and 29 points to the lowly magic. also psycho t, despite his seemingly empty statistical night, was able to draw fouls on andrew nicholson, getting him yanked from the game, and the team had a +9 point differential with him in the game. but again, casey pulled him out of the rotation, for reasons unknown

    people keep saying fields cant shoot, but im fine with that. the guy only took 3 shots last night and they were all drives, which is a rarity coming off the raptors bench. salmons been looking old and tired lately. but just like fields solid game against golden state, casey will probably bench him the next couple weeks just to remind him who’s boss. hoping and praying masai doesn’t bring casey back next year.

    the next 2 games are against teams you pretty much have to play defense against, and with the lineups the raptors have been putting on the floor, they’re setting themselves up nicely to lose the division title before season’s end

    • afrocarter

      I don’t think anybody doubts that Tyler is a good player. Unfortunately, due to his style of play, everything he does (especially on the offensive end) is outside the flow of the game. He himself admitted that he cares little for team chemistry. This could have something to do with his limited minutes (as well as his lack of help D).

  • robertparish00

    I am all about giving Landry minutes, but when Landry starts popping threes everyone will be calling for him to hit the bench. Casey trusts Salmons ballhandling and shooting more than Fields. My thing is Casey needs to find opportunities where Fields can shine and everyone wins. I mean he was the guy that guarded Lebron for the Knicks, the guy is a very solid defender.

    • Will

      Fields is not going to start chucking up threes unless he’s hitting them consistently in practice. He doesn’t even need to shoot. He knows how to cut and drive and pass.

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