The Raptors cruised past the Magic in Orlando to close the 2012 portion of their schedule with back-to-back road wins and seven wins in their last eight games overall.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

Raptors 123, Magic 88

- From my recollection, this was really the first true “cruise control” type victory of the season for the Raptors . The Raps closed the first quarter on a 25-6 run to take a 15-point lead into the second quarter, padded the advantage to 20 by halftime, never let the Magic get closer than 11 in the second half, and finished with the ridiculous 35-point victory. There have been games where the Raptors pulled away late to make the final score look like more of a blowout than the game really was, but against a very depleted and beat up Magic team, they kept the foot on the gas and never really let the result come into question. It was a nice change for fans that are used to blown leads and other wins finishing closer than they should have been.

- One of the best parts about the easy victory was that Dwane Casey had the luxury of going to John Lucas III for the final few minutes of the game, allowing the Raptors’ two-headed point guard monster of Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon to get some extra rest on the bench. Both lead guards were solid for the Raps tonight, with Calderon setting the tone and getting everyone involved early before Lowry came in and picked up right where he left off on Friday night in New Orleans. When it was all said and done, Calderon and Lowry finished with a combined 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting to go with 16 assists, seven rebounds and only two turnovers (they each committed one). Jose finished with roughly 24 minutes, while Lowry was around 22.

- It wasn’t only the point guards sharing the ball for the Raptors in Orlando, as most possessions included at least one Raptor making the extra pass en route to 33 assists on 46 made field goals.

- One player whose passing and play-making abilities (in addition to his overall court awareness) continue to impress me is DeMar DeRozan. His team-leading 21 points on 14 field goal attempts a night after scoring 30 was impressive enough, but DeRozan’s smart passes out of double-teams are what really stuck with me in this game. Most notably, there were a couple of plays in the first half where DeRozan broke down the Magic defence, appeared to set himself up for a shot under the basket with a few Magic players around him, and instead opted to pass to an open teammate at the top of the key, resulting in made jumpers for Amir Johnson and Alan Anderson. I’m not sure DeRozan makes that same play last year, or even earlier this season. His development in areas outside of scoring continue to encourage.

- Landry Fields gave the Raptors some solid minutes tonight, contributing six points (on 3-of-3 shooting), nine rebounds (including three offensive boards) and a couple of assists in 21 minutes of action. I’d obviously like to see Fields play well in more than a game or two and certainly in more than just garbage time blowouts, but what we saw from him tonight – the rebounding, the defence, the smart movement off of the ball – is what I expected from him when the Raptors signed him to the lucrative offer sheet, and it’s why I wasn’t as up in arms over the contract as a lot of others. The question, of course, is can Landry continue to build on these minutes and become the glue-guy type of player for the young core that we all hoped for.

- Six Raptors finished in double figures, and while I’ve already mentioned DeRozan, Lowry and Calderon, the trio of Ed Davis, Terrence Ross and Alan Anderson were nearly as effective. Davis finished with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds, Ross finished with 16 points on 10 field goal attempts (which included hitting four of five three-point attempts) and Anderson finished with 11 points off of the bench in just 20 minutes.

- Speaking of Ross, the rookie continues to settle into a nice groove, as Terrence is now averaging over 10 points per game on 47 per cent shooting and 39 per cent three-point shooting over his last eight games to go along with what’s been some pretty impressive defence from a 21-year-old newcomer. For his efforts, Ross has been rewarded with over 20 minutes per game in those eight contests, of which the Raptors have won seven.

Raptors Player Of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 21 Pts, 7/14 FG, 7/8 FT, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl in 32:38

Magic Player Of the Game: Andrew Nicholson – 22 Pts, 10/14 FG, 2/4 FT, 8 Reb, 1 Stl in 26:26 (The Canadian rookie had just about as impressive a performance as one could have in a 35-point blowout loss)

For the last few weeks, I’ve harped on the fact that the Raptors could at least make things interesting if they took care of business against some weak competition to close the year out, and they’ve done just that, with the only blemish in the last two weeks being a predictable loss in San Antonio.

The Raps finished 2012 with seven wins in eight games, including four straight at home, and now return to Toronto for a season long six-game homestand after never having played more than three straight at home through the first 31 games. In addition, the Raptors will only have to play two sets of back-to-backs in January after playing nine back-to-backs through the first two months of the season.

Simply put, the schedule certainly appears to have turned in Toronto’s favour, and while fully recovering from a 4-19 start to the season remains unlikely, this team has put themselves into position to at least make a run and play some meaningful games in the new year. With the Celtics loss at Golden State tonight, the Raptors have now managed to climb within four games of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed (1.5 back of Orlando for 10th and 3 back of Philly for 9th).

Considering how disastrous the first 23 games were, I think most fans will take that heading into 2013.

Comments (20)

  1. This game was the first game Fields showed to me that he’s back to his days when he played in New York. He did all the little things offensive rebounds, jumping off the court to keep the ball alive. Good defense. Good shot selection.

  2. I never want to see Andrea Bargnani play basketball again. Never.

    • Yea after this nice stretch the Raps have put together, while watching the game tonight, I was thinking…this is great….can’t want for Bargnani to come back and fuck it all up :/

    • Came here to say the exact same thing…

    • AGREED….PLEASE NO MORE PRIMO COMMERCIALS ONLY LOSERS EAT THAT STUFF

  3. i really like how fields is so active. I’d like to see him rewarded more on the offensive end but its still early in his return. Demar still continues to evolve as a potential all star and im loving how aggressive ed davis and tross have been. Btw i was watching some tapes and am i crazy or did landry change his shot from his rookie year to now?its slower and hes a lot less confident/

  4. The Raptors continue to be such a fun team to watch (aside from the mandatory three or four minutes of LoCal time). 21 points on 14 FGAs for DD? That’s some first-rate efficiency. And, as you said, very nice to see signs that Fields might be a decent SF.

    Not sure if I preferred the great dunk by Ross or the one by Acy. Both had a lot of umph.

  5. I agree that DD is improving and really is the go to guy by default. At some point Lowry might be that guy so DD should be thinking about that. As far as player of the game goes you don’t mind smacking down Jose when he doesn’t play like a star and I can see why. His double-doubles are taken for granted. this game was about tone and that was set early on by the passing game, alias Jose. The best praise you can elicit is that Jose is part of that two headed monster known as the PG position. Well just a couple of games ago that Monster had 5 wins in a row. All this crap about Bargs being the reason for their terrible start the same could be said for Lowry. They won without him. Has he added to this team since his return? I expect Andrea to do the same. What people need to realize is that you are seeing right now is a team gelling.

    • One of the most sensible Bargnani comments I’ve read.

    • The same can’t really be said for Lowry. Every advanced stat shows Lowry as one of, if not the best performers on the team, and Bargs as one of the worst. Bargs is putting up the worst numbers of his career. Having Bargs on the court in place of Davis, Johnson or Val costs the team. That is just not true with Lowry.

    • GET OFF PASTA MONSTAS NUT SACK YOU SOUND LIKE A FOOL…..OUR #1 PICK HAS NOT LIVED UP TO EXPECTATIONS THEREFORE THE TEAM HAS SUFFERED ESPECIALLY ON THE DEFENSIVE END….OH YEA CAN’T FORGET ABOUT HIS LACK OF REBOUNDING THAT ALSO HURTS THE TEAM

    • The main difference (Bargs vs. Lowry) is we’ve had 7 years of watching Bargs, and most fans have seen enough. Do you honestly like this team better with him? I don’t. I don’t want to see a 7 footer play like a guard ever again. Bigs need to play big – the whole team is better off when they do.

  6. They were in cruise control against Dallas as well, so not the first, great win against Orlando though

  7. SHOUT OUT TO ED DAVIS THANKS FOR THOSE GOOD MINUTES BRO…HOPE YOU CAN GET MORE!

  8. The Raptors are now a TEAM, with Calderon leading and setting the example, and with Casey going back to his defense first mantra.

    Lowery has bought in as demonstrated vs New Orleans and Orlando, and Bargnani will also, or he will sit, as Casey will insist, as he has with Lowry.

  9. Pop Quiz: Who would you rather have on your team?

    Player A – Salary = $9 million:
    6.7 FG + 15.6 FGA / 1.1 3P + 3.7 3PA / 4.9 FT + 5.6 FTA

    33 mpg / 43% FG / 29% 3P / 87% FT / 5.5 RB / 2 AST / 0.6 STL / 0.5 BL / 2.2 TO / 19.5 PPG / 17.9 PER

    Player B – Salay = $3.4 million:
    7.3 FG + 15.6 FGA / 2.1 3P + 4.8 3PA / 3.6 FT + 4.3 FTA

    37 mpg / 47% FG / 44% 3P / 83% FT / 3.3 RB / 5.8 AST / 0.9 STL / 0 BL / 2.6 TO / 20.3 PPG / 19.8 PER

    A = Bargs last season, when a lot of us thought he was finally “getting it.”
    B = Mike James in his one season with the Raptors. He carried a similar offensive load. He put up better numbers in almost every category, cost half as much, and the team was happy to show him the door after one season. Why have we had 7 years of Andrea Bargnani? The universe doesn’t make any sense.

  10. The best thing is that fields has taken kleiza minutes. Couldn’t be happier. Hope I never see kleiza play again

  11. Time to trade Fields and Lowry to L.A. for Gasol while Fields’ trade value is at an all time high!

  12. Raptors make a run at Demarcus Cousins?
    Offer like Jose, Bargnani and Jonas for Cousins and Cap Space (Thompson, Brooks)

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