The Toronto Raptors are in Orlando to face the Magic, hoping to shake off the sting of a tough overtime loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
In their fifth overtime loss of the season, the Raptors put together one of their best efforts of the year. They pushed the Heat to the brink as they needed a triple-double from LeBron James, 29 points from Dwyane Wade and a picture-perfect three-pointer from Ray Allen late to seal the win. Toronto just didn’t have the right go-to guys in crunch time.
If you are thinking the Raptors have dropped every overtime game this season you are not far off.
The Raptors are now 1-5 in games that go beyond regulation with the lone win coming in a trip to New Orleans on Dec. 28. This is the third time in team history that the franchise has dropped five overtime games in a single season and we’re only at the halfway mark.
In addition, they are also only 2-5 in games decided by three points or less.
There are two ways you can look at this: The Raptors are playing above their talent level in keeping things close with teams like Miami and are simply not good enough to keep up down the stretch where talent so often wins out, or the right players are not on the floor or being given the ball to make the right things happen.
Truth be told, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
Of course, not many teams have the luxury that the Heat do, with James, Wade, Allen or Chris Bosh available with the clock winding down. There is a reason why they won the championship last year. There’s also a reason why James is the best basketball player in the world.
With another overtime loss under their belt, the Raptors hope to get another win over the Magic and sweet the season series for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.
The last meeting between the two was a 123-88 blowout win for Toronto so the Raptors hope to be able to get off to another quick start against an Orlando defence that has been faltering as of late, allowing more than 106 points per contest in their past 15 games. After being plagued by slow starts for most of the season, the Raptors jumped out of the gate in a victory against the Lakers on Sunday and took an advantage early against the Heat on Wednesday.
Another positive from the loss in Miami was the play of DeMar DeRozan, particularly in the fourth quarter. In a shooting slump that had stretched over the past few weeks, DeRozan finally decided to give up on the jumpers and drive to the hoop, forcing officials to make a call and put him on the line. DeRozan also dished seven assists, including six in the first half. While shooting slumps will happen, DeRozan must continue to be aggressive attacking the basket, while also stepping up his efforts on the defensive end of the floor.
While Dwane Casey elected to sit Ed Davis for Aaron Gray down the stretch as well as for a portion of overtime, Davis should have his legs under him against the Magic on Thursday night. Going with an all-reserve lineup for a chunk of the fourth quarter, none of Toronto’s starters topped 35 minutes played. Road back-to-backs are always a challenge, but tired legs shouldn’t be an excuse on Thursday.
Casey’s rotations in Wednesday night’s loss can be questioned, but the advantage of 11 players getting minutes against the Heat is that the team will be ready to go Thursday in Orlando. Good thing since the Magic have been home and rested, waiting for revenge on the Raptors for December’s 35-point drubbing.