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Hard to know what the best sign was for Raptors (11-20) fans during last night’s 35-point, 123-88 domination of the host Orlando Magic.
Toronto spread the ball around (six players scored in double figures), Kyle Lowry enjoyed his second consecutive productive outing since returning to the lineup and the team seemed to be scoring from anywhere and everywhere en route to shooting over 56%. On the other side of the court, Mississauga’s Andrew Nicholson was the standout on an otherwise listless Magic squad, pouring in a game- and career-high 22 points on 10-14 shooting. For me, mind you, there wasn’t a more satisfying sight than Hedo Turkoglu being a defensive liability to the tune of a -37 on the night.
All this to say it was a good night to be a Raptors’ fan. And no, you won’t see me scouring the box score for nits to pick in order to find an entry for “The Bad”. Maybe I’ve still got a little lingering Christmas cheer or something.
Shooting the Lights Out
So how did a team that hadn’t managed to reach the 100-point plateau over their previous three regulation games suddenly erupt for 123 points? Stretches in which they couldn’t seem to miss certainly helped. The team opened the game by making nine of their first 10 three-point attempts en route to shooting 15-27 from three on the night. Aaron Gray (0-2) served as the only Raptor to shoot below 50%. You can credit the playmaking of Jose Calderon (10 assists) or the marksmanship of guys like Terrence Ross (4-5 from three), but Orlando’s abysmal defence merits its own credit.
In a game in which individual nods could go to just about anyone, Fields’ relatively marginal contributions should be acknowledged if only for their context. There is still some hope in Raptors land that the former Knick can be a productive player for the team during the second half of the season, but it’s ultimately been a good thing that he’s mostly failed to crack a fairly solid SF spot since returning from injury. His efforts on Saturday night (six points on 3-3 shooting, nine rebounds and a +20), however, offer an encouraging sign that not only is Fields slowly returning back to form, but that form may be a different one than the disappointing play he displayed pre-injury. It’s just one step, but a necessary one, particularly given the club’s significant investment ($20 million) in Fields.
A Triumphant Return Home
This might be the most positive 11-20 team in NBA history. The club now comes back for a nice home stretch while riding a string of seven wins in eight games with just about everyone (okay, maybe not healthy scratch Linas Kleiza) playing a part.
- Enter Dwane Casey for some refreshing perspective: “We were in a 4 1/2-foot hole, now we’re in a 3 1/2-foot hole, crawling our way out”.
The Raptors kick off a string of eight of their next 10 games at the ACC by hosting the Portland Trailblazers and lead ROY candidate Damian Lillard on Wednesday (7:00pm, RSN) in what should be an interesting test. Toronto will need to sustain momentum after three days off against a tough Blazers squad, but they do catch a break by avoiding the injured LaMarcus Aldridge (sternum).
Prediction: Raptors 102, Blazers 98 (20-6 this season)