Ryan Anderson scored 24 points, J.J. Redick added 21, and the Orlando Magic rallied from a 16-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Toronto Raptors, 102-96, to open 2012. Orlando prevailed despite a brilliant performace from Raptors center Andrea Bargnani, who scored a game-high 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting, and did so with a variety of moves from all around the court. Point guard José Calderón did his part to set Bargnani and his other teammates up, dishing 13 assists and just one turnover in 36 minutes while scoring 18 points of his own.
For the first 39 minutes or so of Sunday's game, Toronto badly outplayed Orlando. It ran its offense with more precision, defended more aggressively, and appeared to be at least a half-step quicker overall. A pair of free throws by DeMar DeRozan--who had the sneakiest 17-point outing I've ever seen--at the 9:43 mark of the fourth period put Toronto up by 13. To that point, the only flash of competence Orlando showed on either end of the floor came in the second period, when it needed just three minutes to turn a 10-point deficit into a three-point lead. The Raptors would go on an 11-3 scoring run to enter halftime with a five-point edge.
But in the fourth, the Magic found their footing, and began an impressive rally in which they moved the ball on offense and challenged the Raptors on defense. It was an effort reminiscent of the more memorable games of the team's 2008/09 NBA Finals season. In no way do I mean to suggest that the Magic are championship-caliber; the point is that for nine minutes on Sunday, they played like they were.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's 2010/11 average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's 2010/11 average.
Calderón and Bargnani are talented players in their own rights, but watching them for most of Sunday's game, one might have mistaken them for the Dallas Mavericks' old Steve Nash/Dirk Nowitzki combination. And as lazily as the Magic defended--letting Calderón into the lane almost at will, conceding jumpers to Bargnani--one has to credit the Raptors' top players for an outstanding showing. Bargnani, who entered the league as a spot-up shooter, showed a diverse offensive game. He befuddled whomever Stan Van Gundy assigned to cover him, even defensive specialist Earl Clark.
And Calderón got to wherever he wanted to go, it seemend, whenever he wanted to go. Not a flashy point guard by any means, the seven-year veteran clinically dismantled Orlando's defense with dribble penetration. When afforded the opportunity, he knocked down his shots, shooting 6-of-9 from the field on the night, and 3-of-4 on threes.
But when the Magic knuckled down defensively, when they didn't allow Bargnani to roll or pop free from his man in the two-man game between him and Calderón, when they rotated correctly and closed out aggressively, the Raptors' offense went bust. After making their first two shots of the fourth period, Toronto ended the game in a 3-of-13 drought. Just as importantly, the Magic didn't send the Raptors to the foul line as often as they had in previous quarters, yielding just four attempts from the charity stripe in the fourth period.
The three-point shot fueled the Magic's comeback, as they nailed 5-of-7 of their triple-tries in the fourth. Hedo Turkoglu accounted for three of them (two makes and one assist), including the go-ahead three which provided the game's only lead change of the second half.
Anderson and Redick stole the show for Orlando, and the game ended on a high note, obviously, but there are still signs for concern. That Orlando played as lethargically as it did Sunday night bodes ill, especially on the front end of a back-to-back set. Further, Jason Richardson took a step backward after two solid outings, shooting 1-of-8 from the floor for five points; Redick, his backup, earned the team's crunch-time minutes at shooting guard and finished with 34 minutes to Richardson's 28. Further, Orlando remains vulnerable when it's not hitting from the outside. The Magic can't rely on the three-pointer every night. It used to be they could count on their defense to keep them in games, but based on the ease with which the likes of Calderón and Bargnani scored for the balance of Sunday's contest, that's simply not the case with the 2011/12 squad.
The Magic now jet to the Motor City for a matchup against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.