The Toronto Raptors secured their ninth win in their last ten games Wednesday night to remain atop the Eastern Conference standings. The Raptors defeated the Magic 117-104, led by their All-Star back-court of Kyle Lowry (17 points, 11 assists) and DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan led all scorers with 21 points (6-13 FG, 9-11 FT).
But it was Toronto's bench who helped balance the Raptors attack by providing scoring (53 bench points), rebounding, and overall energy on the floor.
“Their energy players won the game for them, they were terrific” Coach Frank Vogel said, speaking about Toronto’s second unit. “On both ends of the floor, (the bench) really gave them energy defensively, and like I said - getting out in transition and running.”
Both teams began the game blisteringly hot. The Raptors knocked down their first five three-point attempts, connecting on 12 of their first 14 attempts overall.
The Magic were feeling it early as well, they went 13 for 18 from the field to open the game.
The Raptors and Magic combined to go 32 for 42 (76%) in a first quarter that saw 79 combined points scored.
Orlando continued to keep the scoreboard operator busy in the second quarter. The Magic bench unit, which performed poorly Monday night against the Thunder, did a lot of positive things in the first half. Shelvin Mack provided the Magic with seven second quarter points (to go along with four assists in the period), and Bismack Biyombo pitched in with six points and eight rebounds in ten first half minutes.
Mario Hezonja knocked down two three-point attempts in the second quarter, and Rashad Vaughn followed Hezonja with one of his own.
But Toronto’s bench was just as good in the first half, led by Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl, C.J. Miles, and Fred VanVleet combined for 23 first half points, and the Raptors led the Magic 69-63 at the break.
Orlando opened the second half on a 9-2 run and took the lead, which prompted Toronto coach Dwane Casey to call a timeout.
The lead changed back and forth eight times in the third quarter. When the Raptors looked like they were poised to start pulling away, Hezonja knocked down a big shot to slow down their momentum. On the next possession, Mack stole the ball and connected on a three of his own, which was followed by an emphatic Biyombo blocked shot.
In a somewhat interesting move, coach Vogel called a timeout early in the fourth quarter with over 9 minutes remaining in the game. It was Vogel’s sixth charged timeout, which left Orlando with one timeout remaining for nearly an entire quarter (in a one possession game at that point) still to be played.
As it turned out, the timeout issue did not come back to hurt the Magic. A critical mid-4th quarter turnover did however.
After a Hezonja “and-1” jumper at the 7:12 mark, the Raptors got a second chance dunk from Miles, and then a VanVleet steal (Mack turnover) led to a Delon Wright dunk at the other end that pushed Toronto's lead to six. The Raptors never looked back, finishing the game on a 17-8 run.
Pascal Siakam led the charge late, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the final five minutes of the game.
“Defensively is where the game was lost the entire night,” Vogel said. “We’re doing some really positive things on the offensive end, we just don’t show enough resistance defending the paint and keeping our man in front of us. It’s been costly.”
Fournier and Hezonja led the Magic with 17 points apiece. Hezonja’s 17 points came in 19 minutes; he knocked down his first five attempts in the game (finished 5-7 from the field).
The Magic will be back in action at home Friday night against Stan Van Gundy and the Detroit Pistons.