5 Things: Barnes showing growth, VanVleet approaching Lowry's Raptors record

Scottie Barnes scored 18 points and added seven assists as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic in a 102-89 victory.

Here are five takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' 102-89 win over the Orlando Magic.

One — This was an uneventful win for the Raptors who are now 11-2 in their last 13 games. The Magic are last in the standings, and although they had defeated the Raptors last month, the circumstances were entirely different since the Raptors were missing several starters. The Raptors took the lead early, but were unable to pull away for good since the Magic have quietly ranked top-five in defensive rating since the All-Star break. Orlando made a push at the start of the fourth quarter, but Nick Nurse quickly put an end to it by bringing back his starters to finish off the job. The Raptors now return home for a four-game homestand to secure their spot outside of the play-in tournament, holding a commanding three-game lead over Cleveland.

Two — The Raptors won the possession game yet again, turning 19 turnovers into 32 points to fuel their offence. In the halfcourt, the Raptors were fairly disjointed and struggled to get into the paint on account of the Magic's size in the middle between Mo Bamba and Robin Lopez, but they were consistently able to build leads by turning the Magic over. Fred VanVleet continues to lead the effort, forcing another nine turnovers in this game on the heels of pressuring the Timberwolves into 11 in their last win. VanVleet was accredited for five steals, but he also had another block under the basket against Bamba to erase a layup and change possession, while also hounding a pair of drivers into travelling violations. VanVleet's timing and aggressiveness in catching teams by surprise with double teams are impeccable. While his shooting percentages remain low, his activity on the defensive end has been the biggest driver of the team's last two wins.

Three The Raptors played their starters together for 30 minutes, which is their highest usage game all season. It was the only group that worked, as the Raptors' second unit was sluggish and confused each time they checked in. With the Raptors winning by 23 points in those 30 minutes, the five-man unit of VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Scottie Barnes is back to being a positive on the year, ranking at plus-six in 345 minutes for the Raptors' most used lineups. And while that number remains modest if not overwhelming, this game is a reminder that lineup data is often too noisy to make any firm conclusions. In the win over Minnesota, the starting group was ineffective and Nurse abandoned it for the second half, whereas in this win, Nurse brought the starters back for the last nine minutes of the fourth quarter to secure the win. This game was one of the good nights, where the starters were all able to get their own offense and finish in double-digits.

Four Barnes did a bit of everything before closing out strong. Barnes tends to be more reluctant to shoot when the team is healthy, opting instead to set the table, but he broke that trend tonight. Whether it was attacking the glass, setting hard screens and rolling with intent, or even pulling up on the jumper, there was a noticeable effort on Barnes' part to score. On the last two plays of the game, Barnes looked off Siakam to attack Bamba off the dribble, forcing a foul on the 7-foot shot-blocker. Then, on the following trip, Barnes ripped past Bamba to explode for a two-handed dunk at the basket. Part of his intent tonight could be chalked up to the Floridian having family and friends in the building, but this is also exactly what Nurse has been asking from Barnes all season. He finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists without a turnover.

Five VanVleet is only three makes away from breaking Kyle Lowry's franchise record for most threes in a season. That might explain why VanVleet was so aggressive with his shot, especially in the first half, as he finished the game with 16 attempts from deep with five makes to put himself within striking range. As it happens, VanVleet sees his former teammate on Sunday in Lowry's highly anticipated return to Toronto, where he is likely to break the record given how much the Heat prioritize taking away the paint and how much they play zone coverages. VanVleet attempted 36 threes in his last three games against Miami this season.

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