With a high-profile clash with the Cleveland Cavaliers on tap Wednesday, the Raptors first had to make a pit stop in Florida and take care of business against a bad Magic team. With Toronto all-star DeMar DeRozan missing Tuesday’s affair due to a left thigh contusion, Orlando was the better team for the vast majority of the game.
A win is a win, but this was as ugly as they come. Here are some takeaways from the sloppy matchup.
Lowry puts the team on his back
With DeRozan out of the lineup, the Raptors relied heavily on their other all-star.
Kyle Lowry was undoubtedly the reason Toronto walked out of Orlando with the win, pouring in 25 points and eight assists with seven made three-pointers. The stat line doesn’t even do Lowry justice as he made clutch shot after clutch shot when the Raptors needed him most.
Dwane Casey would have liked to have been able to limit Lowry’s playing time heading into the second night of a back-to-back in Cleveland but Toronto unfortunately needed all 36 of its leader’s minutes to fend off the lowly Magic.
Trailing 76-68 after three quarters, the Raptors found another gear defensively in the final period. Their offence laboured to start the frame, but the bricks they were throwing at the rim didn’t affect them on the other end of the court as they forced the Magic to miss their first 11 shot attempts to start the fourth.
Eventually Toronto’s offence clicked, and all it took was a two-minute stretch to essentially ice the game. The Raptors reeled off a 12-0 run midway through the quarter and that would end up being all she wrote. It’s a shame it didn’t come sooner.
Small forward hole
Starting three-man OG Anunoby is becoming a liability on the offensive side of the ball, and it’s the Raptors’ biggest concern as the playoffs inch closer.
With Anunoby in a prolonged shooting slump, opposing defences are playing off him, making it more difficult for the other starters to operate. The rookie didn’t look confident in Tuesday’s game and made a couple poor decisions that earned him a quick hook. He finished with zero points on the night, missing his two shot attempts and turning the ball over once.
Toronto does not have an obvious solution to this recurring problem and Casey may have to get creative with his rotations to address it. Norman Powell is an option, and he had a strong first half with 10 points before disappearing after the break. With the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference all but locked up, the coaching staff can mix and match different players to try and find the best fit.
Another streak ends
Toronto’s 11-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday, and the team saw another impressive run end against the Magic, failing to reach 100 points for the first time in 23 games. From the 17 turnovers to the 53 per cent clip from the free-throw line, Tuesday’s offensive display was difficult to watch for large chunks of the night and the Raptors appeared to be throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck.
It was an all-hands-on-deck effort for the Raptors as 11 of 12 players dressed for action saw double-digit minutes. Lucas Nogueira and Lorenzo Brown provided boosts on a night some of the regular contributors just didn’t have it. That depth is a luxury Toronto has leaned on all year.
The Raptors haven’t done themselves any favours of late, trailing at the half in each of their past four games. They looked well on their way to a fifth straight halftime deficit, going down by 10 points with just under three minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Lowry single-handedly decided enough was enough, sparking an 11-0 Toronto run to close the half. The Villanova product connected on a pair of threes during the offensive outburst and also made a heads-up drive to the basket for a layup.
Even though the visitors carried a 52-51 lead into the third quarter, they were thoroughly outplayed for 21 of the 24 minutes. Toronto looked too nonchalant for large stretches, committing eight first-half turnovers that led to a seemingly endless flurry of highlight-reel dunks from Magic high-flyer Aaron Gordon.
Chalk it up to not having DeRozan or the fact they were coming off an emotional loss, but the Raptors could really stand to benefit from a more consistent effort from the opening tip.