Raptors win fifth straight with defence, pull within reach of homecourt advantage

It's safe to say that the Raptors didn't play with their food this time.

It’s safe to say that the Raptors didn’t play with their food this time.

The loss to Orlando at home four games after the all-star break was definitely a blemish on an otherwise very successful season so far. Anytime the Raptors are a couple games shy of a team, that’s the one fans always point at (along with the continued Dwane Casey dominance) and say “if it weren’t for that, we would be…fill in the blank.”

The third and final meeting this season was different for a number of reasons.

Generating Offence from Defence

Nick Nurse’s complicated defensive schemes have been questioned from time to time this season, especially with the tendency to give up corner threes which has actually been a thing for years now. However Toronto’s chemistry on that end right now is at peak performance. The Raptors rank second in defensive rating since February 28 and were coming off forcing 21 turnovers against the Timberwolves.

Orlando kept that same theme going with 14 turnovers in the first half alone, leading to 26 Raptor points.

Fred VanVleet was all over those clips, forcing 9 Magic miscues on his own by digging down in the paint or taking cookies on the perimeter. Fred finished with five steals and two “blocks” (we all know Fred would rather those two be counted as steals as well.)

“I don’t know how many steals Freddy had, five but it felt like 10. He was really getting his hands on the ball….It’s just the speed and quickness that you’re seeing is marketably different than we had seen there for a couple of games. Defensively he’s been unbelievable lately.” Nurse said after the game.

Approaching a record

Sticking with FVV on the other side of the ball. VanVleet scored 13 of the first 14 Raptor points in the third quarter, helping extend a 13 point Raptor lead into the 20’s.

He’s still working his way out of a self admitted slump, but Fred’s five threes in this game now give him 236 on the season (the stat below was before the game), three short of passing Kyle Lowry for the single season franchise record.

Of course, the script would be written that FVV passes the GROAT when he’s in the building on Sunday. I’d be shocked if it didn’t happen, and Kyle is well aware too.

“What did I shoot, 16 of them tonight, so if I shoot another 16 on Sunday I might just pass him. So we’ll see,” said VanVleet.

Scottie’s homecoming

This was the Raptors lone trip to Orlando this season, not far from West Palm Beach where Barnes grew up. There was no rookie battle this time, as Jalen Suggs hasn’t played since March 13th because of a bone bruise in his right ankle. Franz Wagner is the other Magic standout, but he also hurt his ankle on the first possession of the game.

Scottie had one of those all-around games that have become typical. Five of his eight rebounds came on the offensive end which led to some tip-ins. The rookie also dished out seven assists, showed good defensive effort, made a pull three and scored a game-high 19 points.

Barnes wrapped things up by putting this baby to bed while Orlando was trying to make a final run.

Sidenotes: Homecourt?!?!

This seemed like a wild proposition a week ago, but the Raptors have an opportunity to control their own destiny for fourth in the East if they win out. Toronto needs another loss from the Bulls and 76ers, combined with a win against Philly at home next week. That’s also FINALLY scheduled to be the Danny Green ring game, two and a half years in the making.

What’s Next?

If you don’t know, I question you as a Raptors fan.

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