A solid crowd packed the Air Canada Centre to see the Bargnani-less and Calderon-less Raptors take on Hedo Turkoglu and the Magic, and the sellout crowd of 19 800 were treated to quite the ball game.
It didn’t look like a good game was on tap in the first quarter, as the two teams couldn’t get out of their own ways, and played a very slow-paced opening frame. But the Raptors were showing a refreshing commitment to defence, and Ed Davis led the way early on, as Toronto hung with Orlando.
Dwight Howard began taking over in the second quarter, and was virtually unstoppable inside. Even worse, D-12 was making his free throws in the first half. The Magic took control with a 30-point second quarter, but the Raptors refused to lay down.
The third quarter was a battle of the point guards, as Jameer Nelson and Jerryd Bayless traded shot for shot. Despite conceding back-to-back 30-point quarters and clearly being outmatched in the skill department, the Raptors headed to the fourth quarter down just six points, and the rowdy ACC crowd could sense an upset looming.
Jerryd Bayless continued to carry the team in the final quarter, and DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa hit some big shots late, as the Raptors climbed back in front. Orlando had its chances to regain control, but either ended up turning the ball over or missing free throws.
The playoff-bound Magic could only watch as the young, scrappy Raptors manufactured one of their best victories of the season. Without their leading scorer and starting point guard, the Raptors, losers of six straight and 20-55 (coming into this game) overall, were able to knock off an East power and their superstar in impressive fashion.
The Raps left the court to a standing ovation. It was a welcomed sight to see, and well-deserved by the players on this night.
The obvious positives from this game are that the young core pieces all contributed. DeRozan and Bayless combined for 47 points, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson provided solid defence inside and James Johnson put together another balanced stat-line of 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Another impressive note from the night is that the Raptors dominated one of the better rebounding teams in the league on the glass, out-rebounding Orlando, 48-30. Leading the way in this department – who else, but Reggie Evans, who pulled down 17 rebounds in 32 minutes off of the bench.
The game had its slow points, but was, overall, another entertaining affair at the ACC. Raptors fans have to be happy with the performance from their young team, and the end result.
And yes, I will be one of the people who comments on the fact that this team is scrappier, better defensively, better on the glass and overall, just more entertaining without Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. It doesn’t mean I’m a Calderon or Bargnani “hater,” though I have stated my issues with those two in the past.
I’m just stating an opinion; an opinion I believe is obvious to anyone who watches this team on a regular basis.
Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 35 Min, 23 Pts, 7-14 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 6-7 FT, 2 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl,
Magic Player of the Game: Dwight Howard – 39 Min, 31 Pts, 11-20 FG, 9-15 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Blk
Goat of the Game: Quentin Richardson – 23 Min, 3 Pts, 1-4 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 TO