Raptors dominate at both ends as the series turns

The mood of The People sure seems brighter, doesn’t it?

For every reason, actually, because that was a thorough demolition of the Magic by the Raptors last night and showed the wide discrepancy in talent between the teams.

Now, it’s easy to say it’s over and Orlando may not win another game but we remind you, the Magic ain’t chopped liver, they might figure out how to get their offence going at a higher clip and there are still game to be played.

But if the Raptors can sustain that effort for the next three nights, this one’s gonna be in the books.

Two big “ifs” but not sure there are too many logical reasons to think they won’t both happen.

And to finish off Game 2, this:


An opening statement

We knew – at least a lot of us did – that the Raptors would do whatever they could to blitz the Magic right out of the gate because they were a bit miffed with themselves for how they played for long stretches on Saturday.

But even the most cockeyed optimist might not have seen those first five minutes coming.

The Magic didn’t score until an Aaron Gordon putback dunk with 4:46 gone, they missed six field goal attempts and four free throws and had four turnovers and that seem to bamboozle them like little I’ve seen before.

As statements go, it’s hard to imagine the Raptors making a more declarative one; Nick Nurse talked about “imposing their will” on the game and they most certainly did.

The Magic were really never in game after that Raptors start and a game-long message was sent.

Leonard steal.

Leonard coast-to-coast drive.

Leonard finishing strongly through bodies at the rim.

He was outstanding and that seven or eight seconds perfectly summed up his night.

Gambling and winning

We spoke a fair amount about the decision to leave Leonard in after he got two fouls in the first 2 ½ minutes in the quick game over story and alluded to it in the later story as well.

But even with that, the Raptors still finished the first quarter with Pascal Siakam out there with four backups and that might have been as a big a gamble as sticking with Leonard.

Not sure I’m a big fan of those lineups – and I like them marginally better if it’s Lowry out there – but in the couple of minutes they went with it, the lead only shrunk from 11 to eight and that’s got to be considered a win.

If there was one downside to the night – and it was sort of hard to find one – it’s that Fred VanVleet struggled for the second night in a row. Two points in 21 minutes or so probably isn’t something the Raptors can live with on a nightly basis.

Doubling up

There’ll be a bunch more on this later on today – we’re already planning the two off-day stories because two off days is one too many – but what the Raptors are doing to render Nikola Vucevic basically inconsequential is pretty dang impressive.

Marc Gasol is gobbling him up on one-on-coverages and when Gasol rests and Vucevic is still in the game, the Raptors are doubling him a lot in the post and forcing a lot of turnovers.

Vucevic had four turnovers and only seven field goal attempts in about 26 minutes and unless he and coach Steve Clifford can figure out a way to get him unlocked, it’s hard to see a way Orlando wins another game.

And the rest of the story is …

FIBA has shortened the trip to the Olympic basketball podium.

By moving to three preliminary round groups of four instead of two groups of six, it’s only going to take six games to win a medal, not eight as in just about every other Games.

Top two from each preliminary round pool and the two best third place teams (and I have no idea yet how they’ll break those inevitable ties except to know that it’ll involve math and math sucks) advance to knockout quarter-finals and then on to the semis and finals.

It does lighten the load a fair amount and it might cut back on the strategic losing that always went on to avoid bad quarter-final games under the old format, which is good.

Now, it may not matter all that much here for the men because it’s still a very long, very frightful road for them to even get to Tokyo but that’s a story for another day.

If this new system cuts back on tanking in the first round, I’m all for it.

Not sure if we’ll even have a night – Thursday’s travel and write and probably lay low and get some rest, games Friday and Sunday and Saturday includes a soiree being thrown by the team for us – but if anyone’s got a downtown Orlando recommendation, I’m here to take it.

I am absolutely taking tomorrow morning off from here because I need a break every now and then but if you want to get in on the fun and frivolity of the weekend mailbag, here’s your daily reminder that will cover today and tomorrow.

Get on over to askdoug@thestar.ca, ask whatever your heart desires and I’ll have all the answers on Sunday morning for you to read while the urchins are searching out Easter eggs.

(Pro tip: Don’t hide ‘me over the heating vent because the resulting melted mess is a pain to clean up)

Two things I don’t understand yet see a lot on the magical tweeter machine.

What’s a “stan” and what does “ drip” mean in relation to clothing?
And why don’t people use real words? Is it really that hard?

This seems a pretty cool thing to do given the circumstances.

And I get that many fans of the local pucks squad now have dreams of grandeur because the team that was so dominant in the regular season is now out of the Stanley Cup playoffs but shouldn’t it also be noted that it might not be a piece of baklava to get past the team that blew out the team that was so dominant in the regular season?

Seems that’s getting a bit lost in the discussion.

Oh, and the Bruins, too. As my man Baseball Steve keeps reminding me.


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