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:
- 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.