Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 113-97 win over the Orlando Magic.
One — Routine: The Raptors just refuse to drop games to inferior competition. The Magic came into town on a three-game winning streak, but they simply couldn’t solve the Raptors’ defense. Toronto already led the league in opponent field-goal percentage ahead of today’s game and the team’s lead will only grow as Orlando shot a miserable 38.5 percent.
Two — Master: Fred VanVleet continues to step up in the absence of Kyle Lowry, as the 25-year-old lead guard scored 24 points and dished out seven assists against one of the stingiest defenses in the league. VanVleet’s jumper was off, but he gave the Magic fits with his relentless drives to the rim. On one sequence in the first quarter, VanVleet had Nik Vucevic on a switch on the baseline and got blocked going to the basket. The next trip down, VanVleet went right back at the 7-footer, wedged his body in front of Vucevic, and absorbed the contact while spinning the layup in over the shot contest. VanVleet’s finishing in the paint has come and gone this season, but that’s now the only weakness in his game.
Three — Student: VanVleet’s understudy, Terence Davis, was excellent off the bench as the undrafted rookie collected a career-high 19 points to accompany his eight rebounds and five assists. Davis delivered a spark in the first quarter, drilling two threes and hitting a putback in his first two minutes of play. He picked the Magic apart with his drives the remainder of the night, either maneuvering all the way to the cup and finishing or drawing help and dishing the ball off. Davis has scored 13 or more points in four of his last six games and has developed remarkably quickly for a rookie, which is undoubtedly a product of the three seasons he spent in college before going pro.
Four — Unselfish: VanVleet teased Davis in a post-game interview for passing up a shot at his first career 20-point game in favour of finding Oshae Brissett for his first NBA basket. Brissett was clearly thrilled about the decision as the Mississauga native claimed the game ball.
Five — Earned: Chris Boucher dominated his matchup with Mo Bamba, which tells you everything you need to know about the Raptors vis-a-vis the rest of the league. Boucher was a G-League signing who went undrafted, while Bamba was an overhyped prospect who was selected fifth overall. But who is the better player? Boucher played his tail off and finished with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Bamba finished with three points and three rebounds. Toronto’s scouting and player development system spits in the face of tanking because they have the best of both worlds.
Six — Skilled: It’s always fun to see Pascal Siakam battle Jonathan Isaac. Typically, Isaac gains the upper hand by swallowing Siakam whole with his superior length. Siakam tries to post him up, but Isaac is simply physically superior. However, as of the first meeting with Orlando three weeks back, Siakam found success by involving Isaac in pick-and-rolls. As a ball-handler, Siakam was able to run around screens and hit from midrange while Isaac dropped back. And as the roll man, Siakam floated into gaps while Isaac busied himself with cutting off the point guard — and that’s when Siakam was able find room to knock down the floater.
Seven — Steady: Norman Powell is settling into a nice groove as he’s scored 14 or more points in six of his last seven games. Powell is taking smarter shots within the flow of the offense, he’s been decisive with his attacks, and his efficiency has skyrocketed. Sharing the floor with Marc Gasol has helped as Gasol is not only able to find Powell on cuts, but also drags a big out of the paint which clears room for Powell to attack without a help defender rotating over to challenge his layups.
Eight — Decency: As usual, Gasol put the clamps to Vucevic, who shot 1-of-7 from the field before suffering an ankle injury. But Gasol also had the decency to run over and commit an intentional foul while Vucevic was down just to stop the play and allow his opponent to receive treatment. Such is a common sight in soccer, but is rarely seen in basketball. Gasol is a top-class individual.
Nine — Prayer: Gasol also scored his first post-up in nearly a month and the 7-foot Spaniard crossed himself in prayer on his trip down the floor. Those shots will drop eventually for Gasol, who is literally having the worst 2-point shooting season of any centre in the history of basketball. Regression will be his friend in this case as Gasol is a career 49 percent shooter within the arc. But for now, all he can do is pray.
Ten — Flaw: The only negative from this game is that the Magic grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. Coming into tonight, the Raptors ranked 25th in defensive rebounding percentage and those extra opportunities kept the Magic alive on a night when they otherwise had nothing happening. Toronto needs to do a better job of boxing out and being tougher in the paint. The Raptors always do a great job of swarming and contesting at the basket, but the possession isn’t over until they secure the miss.
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