Ryan Anderson scored a game-high 28 points on a career-best eight three-pointers Monday night, helping the Orlando Magic finish a season-sweep of the Toronto Raptors, 117-101. Dwight Howard added 23 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocked shots, while Jameer Nelson shot 8-of-11 from the floor for 18 points, seven assists, and no turnovers in the Magic's most dominant offensive outing of the 2011/12 season. Orlando withstood 21 points from Raptors swingman Gary Forbes, starting in place of the injured DeMar DeRozan, while Linas Kleiza poured in 18 points off Toronto's bench.
In their first season under head coach Dwane Casey, the Raptors have made tremendous strides on the defensive end, allowing 104.2 points per 100 possessions compared to a league-worst 112.7 one season ago. But Monday, Toronto either forgot what it's learned from Casey, or simply failed to implement his strategy. Of Orlando's 44 baskets, 15 came from beyond the arc and another 23 were scored in the painted area. It was a classic case of a team electing to drink both poisons against Orlando.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
The Raptors' early carelessness with the ball helped spot the Magic a 24-8 lead, with Toronto committing six miscues during the game's opening 6-plus minutes, leading to 10 Orlando points. But they made the rest of the period interesting when they stopped gifting the ball to their opponent and started tossing it in the basket: the Raptors closed the first on an 18-4 run being eight points from Kleiza and six from Jerryd Bayless.
Orlando's big victory margin masks the fact that it defended poorly. The Raptors' early turnovers were their own fault, really, and the Magic yielded 101 points in a slow game to a team led by, in Forbes, an undrafted player. If the Magic are going to accomplish anything in the postseason, they'll have to do it at the defensive end, as their offense is far too inconsistent to carry them from game-to-game. Defensive efforts such as this one will ensure a quick departure from the postseason.
Having made that point, one wouldn't know the Magic's offense ranks below the league average based on Monday's showing. Even more remarkable than the three-point shooting--everyone knows Orlando can shoot this well--is the way the Magic handled the ball: the team committed only 10 turnovers the entire night, with lead playmakers Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu combining for 15 assists and no turnovers. None!
If you want another indication of just how hot-and-cold this team can run, consider precisely one week before Monday's offensive explosion against the Raptors, the Magic managed only 59 points in 85 possessions against the Chicago Bulls. One week, two more possessions, 58 more points. And while Casey's Raptors aren't nearly on the level of Tom Thibodeau's Bulls, the point remains valid.
Orlando's miniature road trip concludes Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, against whom it'll look to grab its fourth straight victory.