Three minutes into Game 5 and Kyle Lowry was dominating.
The Toronto Raptors point guard had nine points and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field.
Lowry’s early success epitomized the game as a whole.
The Raptors dominated the Magic through a complete team performance, leading as much as 37 points. Their 115-96 victory gave the Raptors their first five-game series win in franchise history.
A glimpse of the potential this team possessed to make a deep playoff run.
“We know what we are, and what we can be,” Lowry said after Game 5. “We got some great veterans, and guys that’s been through it. It’s been pretty fun to be part of a team that’s just kind of staying the course – no ups, no downs. We’re just going to ride it.”
The quality of basketball the Raptors displayed in Game 5 contrasted their Game 1 performance. Where Lowry scored zero points and the defense could not stop the Magic backcourt from shooting threes.
Game 5 demonstrated a an efficient, locked-in brand of Raptors basketball.
It started with the ball movement. The Raptors possessed 14 more assists than the Magic (34-20). Lowry, along with Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, were critical in making the extra pass to set up their teammates for open shots. The triple penetration offense allowed for the quick ball movement that led to the Raptors efficient three-point shooting.
41.7 percent from beyond the arc. Their best in the five-game series.
After a scary to start to the series, the Raptors make light work of the Magic in game 5 – 115-96!
— Taste Of Sport (@TasteOfSport) April 24, 2019
Helping bring up the shooting efficiency was Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors superstar put up 27 points and was 5-of-5 from three in the decisive win. But more importantly, Leonard raised the level of the players around him.
Power forward Pascal Siakam had a breakout series, using his size to get points in the paint and secure rebounds. The bench players, such as Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka, benefited from Leonard’s presence on the floor because of his playmaking abilities.
For Lowry, the longest-tenured Raptor, he finally was on a team where he didn’t feel pressured to be the points leader. He harnessed his energy and intensity to be a force on both ends of the floor, where he made shots and forced turnovers.
“He was amazing in this series,” Toronto head coach Nick Nurse said. “Maybe as good as I’ve ever seen him.”
The Raptors players knew they could score. This series proved they were an elite defense.
|Defensive Rating Games 2-5||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4||Game 5|
After giving up 104 points in Game 1, the Raptors never surrendered 100-plus points to the Magic the rest of the series. The quickness and physicality to their defense prevented the Magic scorers from getting into the paint and shooting from three with efficiency.
After taking Game 1, the Magic only led for five minutes and 28 seconds the rest of the way.
The early series adversity paid dividends for the Raptors, providing the wake-up call that propelled their four consecutive victories.
In the first-round series’ of the past, the Raptors struggled to close their opponents out. 2016 against the Indiana Pacers went seven games. 2018 versus the Washington Wizards went six.
The 2019 Raptors were different. Their ability to handle a solid defensive team in the Magic (ranked 10th in the NBA in defensive rating) proved they had the talented roster to go up against the best teams in the league.
“The guys are a little banged up, Kyle got a little banged up, obviously guys have been dealing with things all year so to be able to get it done as quickly as possible is always the goal and give yourself a couple of extra days of preparation, treatment, and therapy,” VanVleet said. “That was a big sticking point for us, we wanted to go out there and take care of business.”
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**NOTE: Game 1 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers will reair on Wednesday March 26th at 8 pm EST on Sportsnet**