Jan 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) goes to the basket to score against the Orlando Magic at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors 98 - Orlando Magic 83: Amir returns

The Toronto Raptors were without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan against the Orlando Magic last night, so needed the supporting cast to fill the gap. No problem – Kyle Lowry enjoyed another game of routine excellence, and Amir Johnson shook off some early misses to score in myriad ways. The happy result was a painless defeat of an overmatched Orlando squad.

Jan 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) moves the ball against the defense of Orlando Magic forward Kyle O

Jan 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) moves the ball against the defense of Orlando Magic forward Kyle O

The Raptors came out impossibly hot from 3-point range, hitting their first 9 shots. Toronto held a 13-point advantage as the second quarter opened, won that one by a bucket, then tied both quarters after intermission. Toronto played keep-away all night, as the closest the Magic would come was eight points in Q3. In short, the remarkable thing about this win was how unremarkable it was; how little tension was generated once the home team seized the lead.

Kyle heard cries of “M-V-P” from the fans as he attempted (and missed!) a technical-foul free throw, and while there’s little chance of that award gracing the Lowry mantle, our point guard should certainly be a coaches’ choice for the All-Star game. He poured in 33 points, and added 11 assists and 7 rebounds. Amir, compelled to play extra minutes because of the enforced absence of Patrick Patterson, responded to the challenge with his best game in weeks. The Magic’s interior defense was highly vulnerable to Amir slipping into the paint for short hooks, and he drained a corner three in front of the Magic bench. Jonas Valanciunas also stung the Magic, scoring 14 points, many of them on putbacks as he dominated the boards at both ends. He and Amir grabbed 26 rebounds between them, and helped the Raps win the rebounding war by 15. Steve Novak hit a pair of 3s in limited duty.

Terrence Ross is defending so well, he’d probably be starting even without his other contributions. He held Orlando’s top scorer, Aaron Afflalo, to 10 points, while scoring 12 of his own. Nine defensive rebounds and two blocked shots didn’t hurt either.

For Orlando, center Nik Vucevic recovered from his concussion to play well enough to record a double-double. Glen Davis could manage only one basket, as he was dominated by Amir.

Toronto will need its nicked-up warriors, DeRozan and Patterson, to recover from their injuries quickly. The team heads out on a nasty 5-games-in-7-nights road trip to the Western Conference, commencing Friday in Denver against the unpredictable Nuggets.


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