Hosting the Toronto Raptors, arguably the Eastern Conference's weakest team, the Orlando Magic simply could not get the job done on either end, losing decisively by a 110-106 final. Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan combined for 53 points on 61.6 percent True Shooting, and Sonny Weems hit the tiebreaking three-pointer over Dwight Howard to give Toronto a 106-103 edge with 7.3 seconds to play, keying Toronto's win. Orlando failed to rebound (Toronto won the glass, 39-34), take care of the ball (16 turnovers for 23 points), and convert at the free-throw line (16-of-29, 55.2 percent) in one of the more embarrassing losses in recent team history. Only the 12 three-pointers, including 8 off the bench by Mickael Pietrus, helped the Magic keep the game close. And while they managed to tighten their defense for the middle stages of the fourth quarter, they simply didn't execute well enough on the offensive end, in the fourth or throughout the game, to earn a victory. The Raptors, with one win on the season before tonight, demonstrably outworked and outhustled 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.
I don't want to disparage the Raptors here. I don't. They won this game, and deserved to. But, frankly, there's no excuse for letting the likes of DeRozan and Weems beat you at this level. At best--and I think Toronto fans would agree with me--they are below replacement-level at this point, yet they got whatever they wanted against the Magic's sluggish defense. More baffling is the Magic's utter failure to contain DeRozan on the glass. Though he possesses an excellent vertical leap, he's proven to be a mediocre rebounder throughout his career. But tonight? Seven, including 2 on the offensive end. Playing off him a bit makes sense strategically, given his poor outside shot, but too many times the Magic didn't get a body on him when the shot went in the air.
The Raptors warmed up by sinking long two-point jumpers in the first, and though they went down, you got the sense they wouldn't last. Well, it sort of did, with the Raptors converting some truly crazy looks later on in the game. The real concern was just how open they were. Orlando played at half speed defensively for far too long in this game.
And aside from Pietrus' monster night, and Jameer Nelson's routine carving of the Raptors' defense (23 points, 8 assists), the offense was disastrous too. Howard's team-leading 25 points are an afterthought considering the 10 he left at the foul line. Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis opened the game with consecutive driving layups through a wide-open lane, which boded well for the Magic's securing an easy victory. The rest of the way, they combined for 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Lewis faded to such a degree that he didn't attempt a single three-pointer, for the first time since December 2006. Moreover, coach Stan Van Gundy went with Brandon Bass in Lewis' stead during the Magic's fourth-quarter comeback bid, only going to Lewis exceptionally late to space the floor.
Bargnani twice sealed Lewis off in the paint, received the ball, shook him with a drop stop, and converted a one-handed dunk. Defense really has to be a concern for Lewis at this point. Bass proved more effective at slowing Bargnani than Lewis did.
And Pietrus? Great game, hitting eight threes is fantastic, but--and stop me if you've heard this one before--he tried to do too much whenever he drove the ball. He got to the basket a few times, but then tried to force a pass into traffic rather than taking the easy layup. He played too unselfishly.
Howard picked up his fifth technical foul of the season, in eight games, tonight. Upon his 16th tech, he'll receive a one-game suspension. Additionally, he was held to single-digit rebounding for the third time in the last four games.
Orlando hasn't put together a great, 48-minute effort once this season. Of late, defense, execution, and ballhandling have been of particular concern. It's early, and there are kinks to work out, but a team with 10 returning players should not experience "growing pains," or whatever, to this degree.