Toronto Raptors Blow Out Orlando Magic to Nod Up Series at 1-1
On Tuesday night, there was no question as to who the better team in the series was.
The Raptors came out guns blazing, smothering the Magic on defense, while establishing their dominance on the offensive end. Bursting out of the gate on a 9-0 run, it took Orlando nearly five minutes to score their first basket of the game. The Raptors continued to apply the same pressure all night, en route to a statement 111-82 win.
The real Toronto Raptors came to play.
After a quiet night in the scoring department in Game 1, a hungry Kyle Lowry set the tone early on both ends of the floor, picking up two charges, collecting a steal and a block, as well as dropping a momentum-shifting three-pointer on the other end. He would finish the night logging 22 points and dishing out seven assists, while shooting a very respectable 8-for-13 from the field.
“He was big-time tonight,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said in regards to Lowry’s performance. “That’s him at his finest tonight. He was charging up the floor, pushing the ball, passing, shooting, driving, kicking, made steals, hands on everything, rebounded. He was doing it all. That was a big-time performance for him. Really happy for him.”
As Lowry rolled, so did the Raptors.
It is extremely evident how different the team looks when Lowry is aggressive on offense. As Lowry had his shot going, the buzz in the arena changed and at no point did it feel like the Magic had any chance. That being said, while the bounce back game from Lowry allowed the Raptors to push the tempo all night, it was Kawhi Leonard’s performance that pulled the Raptors over the edge.
“He was pretty good tonight,” said Nurse. “Obviously, the offence is sticking out with 37, but just a much more locked-in defensive approach.”
Seemingly unguardable, Leonard had his shot going all night, as he finished the night shooting a scorching 15-for-22.
The Magic simply had no answer for the former Finals MVP, who was able to finish inside under the basket at will as well as create the necessary space to hit his jumpers consistently all night. Most Improved Player favourite Pascal Siakam poured in 19-points of his own, while grabbing down 10 boards in the winning effort. Serge Ibaka added 13 points and eight boards off the pine, while anchoring the teams defensive efforts alongside Marc Gasol.
The duo of Gasol and Ibaka have taken Magic All-Star Nikola Vucevic out of the series. The big man has been a non-factor through the first two games, scoring a combined 17 points on 6-for-21 shooting. Game 1 hero DJ Augustin was held quiet on Tuesday night too, totalling only nine points on putrid 1-for-6 shooting.
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“I don’t have the best memory, but this will definitely be at the top of the list,” Fred VanVleet said of games in which the Raptors have been locked in for the full 48. “I mean, from the jump this one just looked different, right? That’s a team we can be and that’s a team we have to be going forward.”
The series now shifts to Orlando, as the Raptors look to take control of the series on Friday night. A major key for Toronto will be to keep Lowry aggressive, while hoping VanVleet breaks out after a team-low -16 net rating in Game 1 and 1-for-5 shooting performance in Game 2.
To this point, the Magic have had no answer for Siakam and Leonard, if the Raptors can revert to shooting the three-point shot as well as they have down the stretch of the season, this series will not last much longer.