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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Living in a van down by the river
Daily Raptor Dish - 04.04.11
Young Raptors step up in the absence of Bargnani and Calderon
Nothing Magical about this Orlando team
A weekend without Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon didn’t turn out to be the death spiral some would have expected for the Raptors without the team’s leading scorer and it’s primary distributor.
Not that the Raptors weren’t already mathematically done for the year, but instead of an anticipated letdown, these Raptors excelled in the absence of two key starters.
In fact, you could make the argument that in back-to-back games against Chicago and Orlando — a loss followed by a 102-98 upset on Sunday — these were the best consecutive games the Raptors have played all year.
Head coach Jay Triano seemed to be leaning that way.
“I think we’ve played 96 minutes of very good basketball the last two nights,” Triano said. “Our guys are playing hard, they are playing aggressive and they are sharing the basketball.”
Triano though was quick to refute any suggestion that perhaps the Raptors were playing well because Bargnani and Calderon weren’t on the floor.
“We’ve played well when they’ve been in the lineup,” Triano said. “Jose has had games where he has had 16, 17 and 18 assists. Andrea has had games where he’s had 30-something points at different times. We just happen to be playing a little bit of a different way right now.”
At the very least, the Raptors got a look at what life might be like should they ever choose to part ways with a guy like Bargnani who has been such a focal part of this team since he was selected first overall in 2006.
Raptors’ 102-98 win over Magic gives fans reason to cheer again
It’s almost as though Orlando took the game for granted and the Raptors too lightly, that it was only necessary to simply show up, control the opening tap and a win would follow.
What the Raptors proved, much like they did a night earlier in Chicago, is that they will compete and when they are allowed to get out in transition, they are dangerous.
What the Raptors continue to show is that they’re better without Andrea Bargnani because without their jump-shot-happy perimeter player, a defensive stop is more likely to happen, more players are asked to make shots and better ball movement is initiated on offence.
Even if the Raptors contemplate a trade for Bargnani, what possible piece can they attract when everyone in the NBA knows what Bargnani can do — and more importantly, what he can’t do.
Ironically, a player of Bargnani’s skill set, which is unique given his seven-foot frame, would be perfect playing alongside Howard, a presence in the paint who rebounds, blocks shots and intimidates — in other words, the embodiment of the qualities Bargnani does not have.
Raptors snap six game losing skid
The fans were standing and screaming, the players were smiling, the guys on the bench were up and cheering and the mascot was hugging fans in the front row.
It was a night when maybe a few people saw the plan truly in action, a night when a group of young kids played like grizzled old veterans and in a season more about the future than the present, it had to send a message somewhere that things might be moving in the right direction.
Capping what was their best weekend set of games perhaps all season, the Raptors vanquished the Orlando Magic 102-98 before a sellout crowd at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday, providing a true feel-good moment for a team and its fan base that hasn’t had a lot to crow about this season.
Raptors top Magic despite Howard’s heroics
Since the National Basketball Association season began in October, Frank DeRozan has seen his son’s game magnified on the 82-inch screen in his Los Angeles living room.
He’s seen DeMar DeRozan bloom into the Toronto Raptors’ second-leading scorer in the black hole left by Chris Bosh. He’s watched him average 16.7 points per game, doubling his rookie season average. On Sunday night, he watched DeRozan shoulder his team’s main offensive role and lead his team to an 102-98 victory over playoff-bound Orlando Magic.
The win was so improbable it brought the sell-out crowd at the Air Canada Centre to its feet.
Toronto (21-55), with the forth-worst record in the NBA, defeated the forth-best team in the East (Orlando is 48-29). They overcame a 31-point game league MVP candidate Dwight Howard. And they were victorious without their top scorer and starting point guard, Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, who were both sidelined by injuries.
Before the game, Toronto’s head coach Jay Triano speculated that the lopsided matchup could just has easily have turned ghastly. “We’re very aware that this could get embarrassing,” he said.
But, he added: “I think our young guys rise to [these types of] challenges.”
Orlando Magic stumble on the road, lose to lowly Raptors
Throughout the game, the Raptors stayed at home on the Magic’s array of three-point shooters, letting Howard go one-on-one inside. When Van Gundy took the foundation out, the house fell apart.
“It’s a little ridiculous that we can’t even let Dwight get a drink of water but that’s the way it is,” Van Gundy said. “When he leaves, we have no defence and today we had very little offence. It’s crazy; we should be able to take him out to get a drink of water.”
“If everybody gets involved, everybody gets excited,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said. “We wanted one guy [on Orlando] to be excited tonight, and that was Dwight.”
The Magic without Howard are certainly a horrifying proposition, perhaps enhancing his MVP credentials.
Rose’s case for the award is pretty simple: He is the best player on one of the league’s best teams, a team that has been besieged by injuries. His on-court improvements, particularly his jump-shooting, have been obvious.
Howard has done what he has been doing for the last half-decade, except that this year the Magic have been crumbling around him. No Orlando player, aside from Howard, has been consistent, and a mid-season trade that brought Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas to Central Florida has not pushed them to the level of the Eastern Conference’s three best teams.
Despite all of that turmoil, Orlando will still be a 50-win team. Orlando is fifth in points allowed, and fourth in opponent’s field-goal percentage, even with the sloth-like Turkoglu, who made his regular-season return to Toronto after a disastrous season with the Raptors last year.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who comes close to affecting as many possessions a game as Dwight does. It is largely because of him that we’re one of the top five or six defensive teams in the league,” Van Gundy said. “I think his presence at the defensive end is huge, not only blocking shots, but he defends in the post, he’s an outstanding pick-and-roll defender in the post — one of the best in the league, if not the best. So he is in my mind the best defensive player in the league.”
“He pretty much eliminates everything close to the basket,” Triano said.
The Raptors' starting backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless torched the Magic. DeRozan scored a game-high 24 points, while Bayless had 23.
"Obviously, it's been a bumpy road, up and down this year," Bayless said. "But hopefully we end the year on a good note."
Speedy Leandro Barbosa also made an impact, with 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
On one sequence early in the fourth quarter, a missed long jumper by Nelson led to a loose ball, and Barbosa collected it as Turkoglu dived onto the floor. Barbosa sprinted down the court for a fastreak layup, prompting Van Gundy to call a timeout and shoot a glare in Turkoglu's direction.
In his first regular-season game at the Air Canada Centre since his dreadful 2009-10 season with the Raptors, Turkoglu heard jeers all night. The boos cascaded down from the standings from the pregame introductions to every time he touched the ball, even when he made inbounds passes.
"I wasn't really paying attention," said Turkoglu, who coupled 11 points with four assists.
"I knew it was going to happen like that, so I wasn't really paying attention."