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Raptors win Game 3 vs. Magic

Toronto Raptors Blow Double-Digit Lead Late, Hold onto Win Game 3

Call it a Toronto sweep.

Not a bad Good Friday in The Six, pun intended. On Friday night, the Toronto Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC, and the Marlies all won their games. And as the Maple Leafs were putting the finishing touches on their huge Game 5 win, the Raptors were able to take the series lead in a game that got too tight for comfort in the closing minutes.

After a lot of good back and forth, the Raptors were able to push their lead to 16 points in the second half, but as Terrence Ross continued to heat up and the referee’s whistle continued to favour one side, the Magic clawed their way back in. A fierce comeback was cut short as the persistent Raptors stuck with it in a crucial road playoff game.

“I think it showed some toughness for us,” head coach Nick Nurse said following the 98-93 victory. “It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight. I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in. Again, this is a good team.”

Sitting three points down in the final minute, it was Kyle Lowry, a point guard of all players, who secured the most important rebound of the Raptors’ season. Similar to in Game 2, Lowry dictated the pace of the game, consistently pushing the tempo, on his way to finishing with 12 points and 10 assists on a night in which Kawhi Leonard struggled with his shot.

“We won,” said Leonard, who scored 16 points on 5-for-19 shooting. “It’s the playoffs and we want to come out and win the game. That’s all I’m thinking about. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. This is the journey to become a champion and these are the things you’ve got to go through.”

While Leonard struggled offensively on this night, it was Pascal Siakam who logged in yet another brilliant performance. Amassing 42 minutes, Siakam as unguardable on his way to career playoff highs in points with 30 as well as rebounds with 11, on 13-for-20 shooting. Unable to buy a three-pointer in his first two playoff games, Siakam dropped three of his four attempts from long range.

“He’s unbelievable,” commented Lowry on Siakam’s night. “He’s the most improved basketball player in the NBA this year. It’s pretty cool to see him come from where he’s come from — starting but not playing much, in the G-League, winning a championship and then have a good year last year and take the next step this year. It was a great game for him. It’s fun to watch.”

Something that will not go lost in Friday night’s win is yet another bumpy night from Fred VanVleet. The backup point guard was a cold 2-for-7 from the field, missing a few gimme layups that he usually cashes in. Held to a team-low -11 net rating, VanVleet played some solid defense on Ross in the second half, until the former Raptor shooting guard caught fire from long range. The Raptors desperately need VanVleet to find his stroke and aggressiveness back on offense as the series moves on.

That being said, the Raptors have fought back home court advantage and now hold the 2-1 series lead. Game 4 will be played back in Orlando on Sunday night.

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