Orlando visited the Raptors on Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre, but it was Kyle Lowry who had all the magic as he went 5-5 from three-point range in the first quarter on his way to consecutive plus 30 point games for the first time. Lowry had a season high 33 points to go with 11 assists and 7 rebounds, an outstanding performance in a 98-83 victory on the night before the NBA All-Star reserves are announced.
“(Lowry’s) stepped it up,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey. “He set the tone in the first half with his three’s, just his aggressive play means a lot. His veteran leadership out the on the court with (Valanciunas) and Terrence (Ross), you can’t say enough. I keep my fingers crossed that the coaches voted him in (as an All-Star) because he deserves it. I feel like both guys (Lowry and DeRozan) deserve it because right now he’s one of the best point guards in the league.”
“(Lowry) looked like an All-Star tonight,” Tobias Harris said. “Pick-and-roll, he’s tough to guard. He shot the ball real well. He just picked us apart.”
In a game that got sloppy at times, the Raptors were never really threatened as they raced out to a 19-9 lead over the first six minutes and never trailed. Greivis Vasquez started in place of the injured DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Patterson was given the game off to rest his broken nose, so the usually potent Raptors second unit looked more than a little out of sorts and only contributed 11 points and 12 boards, however, Toronto had more than enough firepower on this night.
“A talented bunch,” Head Coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Athletic, long, even without DeRozan, Terrence Ross’ ability to score 50 shows you he can shoot the basketball. He is athletic. They can defend each position individually and they can play small with Vasquez and Lowry, guys who can handle the ball, make plays for themselves and others. A big in the middle with Valanciunas and ability to switch pick-and-rolls with Amir Johnson – I can keep going.”
Ross had 12 points and 8 rebounds, Johnson had 22 points and 11 boards and Valanciunas had 14 points and 15 boards as the Raptors dominated the Magic on the glass 54-39 while holding them to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field. The Magic were overwhelmed at both ends of the court.
“They were much more aggressive on both ends of the court than us,” Jameer Nelson said. “Attacking the ball handlers in our pick-and-roll and affecting the ball for the split second so the big man could get back and the guard can get back in front. We were just too soft defensively and one of the things we need to get better at is the effort – blocking out and getting back in transition.”
“They made their first 9 threes to start a game,” Vaughn said. “How much does that take the wind out of your sails right off the bat?”
It has been a different team in Toronto since Rudy Gay was traded and the change has been getting noticed. Even juggling a short-handed roster, the Raptors played as an effective unit for most of the game.
“I think it really shows the element of playing team basketball,” Vaughn said. “It seems from the outside looking in that everyone has fit into playing a comfortable position – a role for their teammates. I think that is where they found success.”
The Atlantic Division leading Raptors have won 4 of their past 5 games to improve their record to 24-21. Next up, Toronto heads to Denver for Friday night to start a 5 games in 8 nights Western Conference road trip that will test the team’s resilience.
The Magic return home to face Milwaukee on Friday.
Center Nikola Vucevic played for the first time after missing 12 games with a concussion and led the Magic with 16 points and 10 rebounds in just 20.5 minutes.
“I just went out there and played,” Vucevic said. “It’s (the concussion) behind me. I don’t think about it anymore. It happens, its part of being an athlete. I just put it behind me. I’m just happy I’m out there playing again.”
Before the game the Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas and the Magic’s Victor Oladipo were selected to play in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend.
Check out which Raptors could be All-Stars:
Raptors Are Division Leaders And All-Star Worthy
Head Coach Dwane Casey believes his team should have 2 players selected for the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves and both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been doing everything possible lately to prove their coach right.