The Toronto Raptors sleepwalked their way through the first half of last night’s game against the Orlando Magic. On those occasions when the Raps actually got a shot up (meaning when they hadn’t committed one of their 10 turnovers on easily-intercepted passes or travelling calls), it was frequently off the target. Kyle Lowry hadn’t helped much, making but one basket on 7 shots. However, a switch was flicked (by coach Dwane Casey?) during intermission, and our tiny point guard starred in the third quarter. He poured in 17 of the Raps’ 36 points, and the home team grabbed a 15-point lead it was not to relinquish. Kyle’s points came in dramatic style, as he drained every shot he tried, including several 3-balls from well behind the arc.
Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan, himself suffering a slow start, began to find the range. He also made every shot he took, while Terrence Ross missed just one. In short, the Raps shot the lights out, as they dominated the same quarter they did against the Cavaliers on Friday night. The fourth quarter was a saw-off, as the Raps extended their rotation. Greivis Vasquez played all 12 minutes, and a committee of forwards took up the slack created when Amir Johnson rolled his ankle.
Orlando, like Philly and Milwaukee, has committed itself to youth, and by extension, to tanking. While that’s a sound strategy for the long-term, they are badly outclassed in the short-. Without the services of injured Arron Afflalo, their offense was scrambly at best. Mississauga native Andrew Nicholson (who had his uniform number retired at alma mater St. Bonaventure this weekend – well done!) had 13+ minutes to make an impact, but couldn’t find the basket. Non-entities like Kyle O’Quinn and E’Twaun Moore are being given generous opportunities to step up their skills to an NBA level, and may get there, but haven’t yet.
I suppose there’s no such thing as a bad win, but this was close to one. Coach Casey will have a ton of faults to work on. For instance, the Raps’ turnovers didn’t abate all game; they ended up with 23. Orlando, whose players’ average age is about 17, were charged with 9. How can our veteran squad ( relatively speaking) commit so many turnovers, while forcing so few? And why did Patrick Patterson and John Salmons manage only one bucket between them, the same number as the head-scratching Jonas Valanciunas? At least JV crashed the boards, grabbing 9 of the Raps’ 50. That’s a healthy number. So is TRoss’ 16 points, after scoring 20 in the Cleveland victory. Is consistency around the corner for our gifted young swingman?
The Raps travel to Cleveland for a rematch tomorrow night, and will need to be much sharper.