Well, going into Game 2 against the Magic, the Raptors can start with taking a positive out of Game 1. I know, you’re thinking, “A POSITIVE? WHAAA?”, but yes, there were a few positives to be taken out of that game that can be carried over to Game 2. Let’s start with the fact that the Raptors could have laid down and let the game completely get out of hand, but they managed to cut into the lead before half and at one point where really within striking distance at a 5 point deficit. While their defense was nothing to write home about, they did manage to start closing out on some of the open looks that the Magic used to get that lead in the first quarter, so they have to concentrate on carrying that aggressive behaviour over to Game 2.
While Dwight Howard put up some great looking numbers, I honestly cannot say that I thought he dominated any part of the game. The Raptors did a decent job of keeping him away from the basket considering that they really don’t have anybody who can match his size and the fact that they had Bargnani on him for stretches at a time. They were making efforts to cut off the lead-in pass to Howard, to the point where the Magic just forgot about him a few times down the floor, which is exactly what you want them to do. When Howard started complaining that he wasn’t getting the ball, the Magic then gave it to him far from the basket, which plays into the Raptors favour. Let’s be honest, this season, the Raptors have done a decent job against Howard. I’m okay with him getting 30 points a game, because I don’t think he’s the guy who is going to beat the Raps, it’s the rest of the shooters.
So working into what the Raptors need to do to generate some success in Game 2, it is imperative that they close gaps on shooters. I don’t see anyone on the Magic who really has the speed to beat the Raptors D off the dribble (although SOMEHOW, Nelson managed to do it to TJ and Jose all night). While Hedo has some good parts to his game, like we’ve said earlier, he’s just one of those guys who when he gets in the flow, look the hell out. But while he had some clear lanes the the basket in Game 1, I wouldn’t be that worried about him driving either. Bosh is going to have to do a better job against Lewis off the dribble, because he is the one guy who can just use his athleticism to put the ball on the floor and then attack. If the Raptors are able to close gaps quickly and then get help by having teammates slide up if a Magic player puts the ball on the floor or dishes, things could be a lot more balanced in Game 2.
The Raptors have to be able to play 4 quarters of solid basketball. One of the consistent problems for the Raptors all season was their inability to play 4 quality quarters of basketball. Typically, it was the third quarter that gave them trouble throughout the season, in Game 1 it was the first, but either way, the Raptors will have to find a way to be consistent over 4 quarters. If you take a quarter off in the playoffs, you’ll be giving the series away before you know it. This is where Sam will have to ensure that the guys are ready to go from the opening tip and that when they come out in the second half, they keep the energy up. I think the Raptors will come out more awake in Game 2, but I’m a little worried about the third quarter. If they’re not awake coming out of the break, they are going to be in some serious trouble.
Enjoy the game.