The Raptors finally came out on the right side of a close game, sweeping the season series with the Magic on a buzzer-beater from DeMar DeRozan.
Here are some thoughts on the game…
- First, on DeMar DeRozan. You can find more on his fourth quarter antics and my thoughts here, but the gist of it is this – DeRozan has been missing in action for the Raptors for the majority of the month, but with the team looking very capable of letting another winnable game slip through the cracks, the 23-year-old put his team on his back and stepped up down the stretch. DeMar missed a box out on the offensive rebound that resulted in Orlando tying the game with 20 seconds left, but other than that, he was superb in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his 22 points in the final frame on an impressive 7-of-8 shooting.
It was just the kind of clutch performance this team has been lacking for years, and seeing one of the young core players (shout out to commenter PBI, who will surely cringe at that “core” reference) put it together was certainly encouraging, no matter the oppnent.
DeRozan also added seven assists for the second straight game, so I’m cautiously optimistic that he’s finding his way out of his recent slump, though I’d still like to see him earn more free throw attempts.
- Amir Johnson may not have hit a highlight reel game-winner, but he played as big a part in this victory as anyone not named DeRozan. Amir posted a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds and added three blocks for good measure in 37 minutes of action. Nikola Vucevic gave him some trouble inside, but Vucevic also couldn’t guard Amir in the post, and that battle of the big men actually turned out to be the most entertaining matchup to watch.
And staying with the big men theme, the interior big-to-big passing between Amir and Ed Davis continues to impress me. It’s just pretty to watch if you’re a basketball fan.
- Kyle Lowry struggled again in the fourth quarter as he continues his hot and cold season. Three of Lowry’s four turnovers on the night came in the fourth quarter and played a big part in why the Raptors saw their 11-point fourth quarter lead eventually turn into a one-point deficit. The biggest problem tonight was that Lowry seemed to revert back to the player who wasn’t looking for his own shot enough, taking just three in 21 minutes, and making only one. As much as some fans lament the Lowry that forces his own offence, the Lowry that doesn’t attack the rim and doesn’t force the issue at all can be just as damaging to Toronto’s offence, as he ends up passing up good looks and leaves a teammate with the ball and little time left on the shot clock.
I know I sound like a broken record, but Lowry has to find a balance between the two Kyles. He’s one of the most dynamic point guards in the league when he plays with that balance, but the Raptors aren’t getting that balance from him right now.
- Jose Calderon didn’t put up gaudy numbers tonight (10 points and six assists in 27 minutes), but he was steady in running the Raptors’ offence and really stabilized things in the second half of the fourth quarter after Lowry had kind of lost his way. The Raptors went on a 10-3 run immediately after Calderon replaced Lowry to swing the score from 83-84 to 93-87, and even though the Magic made another run after that, Jose was clearly the right choice to close the game at the point for Toronto tonight.
- Terrence Ross gave the Raptors another good 23 minutes in this one, hitting some big shots en route to a 10-point performance on 4-of-8 shooting. More impressive than his offensive game, though, was the way Ross chased J.J. Redick around the floor and fought through screens to make life on the perimeter difficult for Redick. Ross has defended Redick well in other matchups with the Magic this season, as his defence continues to look more than NBA-ready.
- Alan Anderson didn’t have a huge game or shoot the ball that well tonight, but the difference from his overtime meltdown against the Heat to his performance in Orlando was that he actually put the ball on the floor and attacked the basket late in this game. Now some of that has to do with the Heat’s defence, but a lot of it has to do with Anderson’s decision making, and he simply made better decisions when his number was called down the stretch of this game than he made in Miami last night.
- With the win, the Raptors sweep the season series with the Magic for the first time since 2006-07 and complete a four-game sweep in general for the first time since 2009-10. It was also the third time this season that the Raptors have won after playing an overtime game the night before, and two of those three wins have also come against the Magic. One way to look at it is that through 43 games of the season, a quarter of Toronto’s 16 wins have come against one team.
- On that note, the Raptors have improved to 13-9 against teams that currently boast losing records, but only four of their next 13 games come against sub-500 teams, and one of those is still the Celtics, so unless this team can start pulling out actual victories over winning teams as opposed to moral ones, I still can’t see them getting back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
For now, though, let’s just enjoy the fact that the Raptors actually won a close game that ended on a buzzer-beater, because too many of these have gone the other way in the past.
Tonight DeMar DeRozan hit the Raptors 1st game-winning buzzer beater since T.J. Ford vs LAC back in December ’06.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 25, 2013
Raptors Player Of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 22 Pts, 10/17 FG, 2/2 FT, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 TO in 43:27
Magic Player Of the Game: Nikola Vucevic – 19 Pts, 8/14 FG, 3/4 FT, 14 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 Blk in 29:38