After Atlanta’s offence exploded on them two nights earlier, the Toronto Raptors faced a similar situation in the first quarter Sunday night — they were leaving Orlando players open, and the inferior Magic were knocking down shots.
Only this time, Toronto turned things around. It got back to its defensive principles in the second quarter, and by the second half, Orlando couldn’t find an open shot while the Raptors pulled away for a 109-79 victory.
Toronto limited the Magic to 28 second-half points and 41 per cent shooting, which was in stark contrast to Friday night when Atlanta shot nearly 54 per cent from the floor while beating the Raptors 125-121.
“That was big for us after a lacklustre defensive game against Atlanta,” said Toronto coach Dwane Casey, whose team has eclipsed 100 points an NBA-best 15 straight times.
“That’s the way we have to play if we are going to be important, relevant in this league. We have to play with that defensive intensity every night.”
Toronto steps up defensively
The Raptors stepped up defensively in the second half, turning a four-point halftime lead into an 84-64 edge by the end of third quarter. Orlando, which has struggled offensively throughout the season, managed just 13 points in the game-changing third quarter.
The Magic were 3 for 21 from 3-point range. Evan Fournier led Orlando with 15 points but was plagued by foul trouble and turnovers.
“We didn’t start the game following our game plan very well. We had a good first quarter,” said Orlando coach Frank Vogel, whose team dropped to 5-10 at home this season. “We didn’t play team basketball and it got worse as the game went on. They made their runs and we gave in versus responding.”
Much of that was because the Magic had few answers for guard DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas. Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green took turns getting beat off the dribble and on pullup jumpers by DeRozan, who finished with a game-high 31 points for his fourth-straight 30-point effort.
Valanciunas dominated his old teammates Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic in the post, getting 16 points and 13 rebounds.
“Just trying to bounce back from a loss, it sucks coming off a loss,” DeRozan said. “You just want to do whatever you can to get a win and that was my whole mindset tonight.”