The Raptors made a couple of changes to the starting lineup for tonight’s game. Linas Kleiza, returning from injury, replaced Julian Wright in a move that makes you wonder if the coaching staff prefers chuckers over a guy who plays the game the right way. Joey Dorsey replaced Amir Johnson in the starting five, in a move I actually understood. Dorsey is a better candidate to bang in the paint with Dwight Howard than Amir is, and Amir would likely find himself in foul trouble.
Now let’s get to the actual game.
The Raptors came out flat against a pretty good Magic team, and probably would have been run out of the gym if it wasn’t for Orlando’s poor shooting, which by the way, had nothing to do with Toronto’s defence.
DeMar DeRozan provided the only spark for the Raptors early on, as he attacked the basket and piled up 10 first quarter points. DeMar forced some tough shots, and took seven shots overall in the first, but his four trips to the line in that quarter alleviated some of that inefficient offence.
That the Raptors were only down by eight after getting out-rebounded 20-8 and shooting just 28.6 per cent in the first quarter was a minor miracle.
The Raps were even more outclassed in the second quarter, as the Magic got to the basket with ease when they attacked, and were given open jumpers when they wanted them. Orlando quickly opened up a 13-point lead, only to have that margin shrink to six by the break. Again, the Raptors found themselves in a very fortunate situation. They were in a two-possession game at the half, with a vastly superior team that was clearly out-playing them. It should have been a wake-up call. Instead, it was apparently an excuse to crap the bed in the second half, because things were about to get ugly.
After putting together a bit of a run out of the half, and cutting the deficit to two early in the third quarter, the Raptors seemed to hit a brick wall, as the Magic unleashed a fury on their hapless opponents.
Slowly but surely, Orlando’s lead grew in the third, and they enjoyed a comfortable 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter. I expected at least one run from the Raptors in the fourth, to make it semi-interesting for a few minutes. It never came.
The reality is that most of the men in black had quit at that point. Don’t be fooled when Triano and some players try to put an ignorant spin on it. They quit, and that’s the story.
A 16-0 Magic run early in the fourth made the score laughable at 91-59, and the scary thing is that the worst was yet to come. With most of the Raptors strolling up and down the floor without a care in the world, the Magic refused to let up, eventually making it a 40-point game.
DeRozan, Johnson, Dorsey (who left early with a knee problem), Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless and Julian Wright were the six players that seemed to be legitimately embarrassed by what was going on, and attempted to do something about it. The rest of the team may as well have not showed up at all.
On one positive note, Julian Wright proved his worth, yet again. He at least put an effort in on the defensive end, rebounded the ball and showed more of that promising passing ability. Linas Kleiza went 1-of-6 from the field, but if you know anything about Triano and these Raptors, chances are Kleiza still starts Saturday in Miami.
If you really want to know how bad this game was from a Toronto perspective, look no further than Jose Calderon. The usually sweet shooting point-guard was 0-for-6 in 28 minutes. Ouch.
Speaking of poor shooting, how about the funk Andrea Bargnani is in? A 3-of-14 night in Orlando means he is now 13-of-51 over the last three games. If Bargnani was putting even an ounce of effort into another aspect of his game, maybe the team could live with this. But since he’s not, his lazy behind should be stapled to the bench when the ball gets tipped in Miami on Saturday.
To be honest, through two and a half quarters, I saw this game as a prime example of an elite team, or close to it, doing what they were supposed to do to a young, inexperienced, injury-riddled, lousy team. So I didn’t plan on ripping the Raptors too hard. But the display they put on in the second half had nothing to do with youth, experience or injuries. It had to do with heart.
And a team should always be lambasted when that is missing, no matter what their situation is.
Raptors Player of the Game: Julian Wright – 27 Min, 6 Pts, 3-7 FG, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl
Magic Player of the Game: Dwight Howard – 30 Min, 31 Pts, 12-21 FG, 7-13 FT, 19 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk
Goat of the Game: Linas Kleiza – 23 Min, 4 Pts, 1-6 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 1-2 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO (You could go with Kleiza, Bargnani or Calderon here)