The Raptors face a Magic team as I said in the set-up to this game is on a roll. I was impressed by the Magic heading into this season. I think people in Raptorland under estimated this team last season and did not give them credit for being a good basketball team. I personally learned my lesson and was one of the few that were giving the Magic some much deserved love in the pre-season leading into this 08/09 season. I called for Stan Van Gundy to win coach of the year and Dwight Howard to be M.V.P. The Magic had a very slow start to the season and it was looking like I was nuts. But look at them now winners of 9 of their last 10 basketball games. In the Eastern Conference all the talk is about the Cavs and Celtics and on a national stage the Magic are being over looked just like they were locally here in Toronto last year. Don't sleep on the Orlando Magic because they have talent and are a solid basketball team built around an amazing talent in Dwight Howard. Chris Bosh no doubt feels happy for his friend and his success. However given the state of things in Toronto he must be more disappointed with his situation. He will have to carry the load today with no Jermaine O'Neal and Jose Calderon. Bosh in his career has had 7 career 40 points or more games and 3 of them have been against the Magic. If Bosh is going to get any help it will have to come from Andrea Bargnani. He has done well in replacing O'Neal in the starting line-up. Despite the fact that some including me have thought he may just not be in the long term future for the Raptors he has played some of his best basketball of the season in these last few games. The Raptors will need that to continue to have any chance at success. They will also need Will Solomon to play at a high level and not fall apart as he did earlier in the year against Orlando. The odds are long for the Raptors today to get a win. That is the reality of things but if they did manage to win it would be impressive to say the least. The Magic road record is impressive to say the least. So let's see what happens and if Raptors can find a way to ground Superman. But even if they can Magic have many options from 3 point range to many to mention.
Magic win the opening tap and Rashard Lewis misses a 3 pointer but Dwight Howard gets the offensive rebound and put back score. Andrea Bargnani would miss but follow his shot and score off the rebound. Bargnani would nail a 3 pointer in response to a Magic score. But quickly back the other way Dwight Howard would get a dunk. Chris Bosh would look to get in on the party making his first jumper of the day. Jameer Nelson would miss an attempt and Anthony Parker back in the starting line-up would make his first attempt of the day. Dwight Howard would get fouled but score anyway and make the free throw. The score was tied at 9. Will Solomon would drive at Howard and score and draw the second foul on Howard. So the Raptors had a 12-9 lead but more importantly Howard was taking an early seat after a hot start.
Rashard Lewis would score from long range and the game was back to even at 12-12. Anthony Parker would dunk it home on a feed from Bosh and the Raptors looked solid early with a 14-12 lead and Howard a spectator. Magic had made a few uncharacteristic turnovers early on. This latest one the Raptors could not cash is on it as Bargnani missed a 3 pointer. Hedo Turkoglu would make a 3 pointer and the Magic were in front 15-14. Jameer Nelso would get fouled and head to the line looking to extend the lead with he would making both. Anthony Parker was off to a nice start as he drove to the basket and scored in response. Will Solomon on the next trip would stop and pop for 2 points and he would do the same the next time down the floor and the Raptors were taking advantage of Magic miscues and lead 20-17. Chris Bosh would take it at Rashard Lewis and draw the foul on him and make a pair from the line. Raptors lead 22-17 and looked good. Maybe they were better than I thought against the Rockets. The Rockets were bad no doubt but it seems the Raptors were just as good based on this early performance. Bosh was back at the line adding to the lead. Jamario Moon would make a very tough jumper and the Raptors lead had grown to 26-17. This was not what I was expecting to see but am happy to be seeing it. Still this was being done with Dwight Howard looking on.
Chris Bosh continued the Raptor run with another basket and the Raptor lead was 28-17. Tony Battie would finally end the run with a basket for the Magic.But the Raptors kept rolling as AP would score a 2 point shot. Roko Ukic who had checked in for Solomon did the same as he did with back to back baskets. The Raptor lead had grown to 15 points. Kieth Bogans would hit a 3 pointer to draw the Magic slightly closer. Shockingly you score after one quarter of play it was the Raptors leading 34-22.
Jake Voskhul, Joey Graham and Jason Kapono had checked in to start the 2nd quarter. Dwight Howard was back in the game for the Magic as well and he would get to know Jake Voskhul right awat as he would get fouled. Howard would go 1-2 from the line for the first point of the quarter. Rashard Lewis would hit a 3-ball and the Magic had started the quarter on a bit of a roll. But Roko Ukic would find Bargnani for a dunk of a Magic turnover in transition. Bargnani would hit another basket with a mid-range jumper to restore the Raptor 12 point lead. Roko Ukic would drive and score and the Raptors were putting the boots to the Magic much like they had Houston. Can some one tell me what is going on here because I am at a loss. The Raptors were playing good to great defense and creating turnovers. It was hard to believe what you were watching to be honest.
Joey Graham was being aggressive on defense and he got rewarded with a basket on offense. Graham was not done as he would answer a Howard bucket with a mid range jumper. Courtney Lee would get a 3 pointer for the Magic and they badly needed it. Raptors had a 44-31 lead. Jake Voskhul would once again lay the wood on Superman and send him to the line. Howard would have a rare 2-2 effort from the line. Will Solomon was back in game and he scored. Soloic? doesn't sound like Forderon but it was sure looking like it today. Bosh was back on the floor now as well. Dwight Howard had a dunk and he had 16 points despite being limited in minutes by fouls. Howard was getting his but the rest of the Magic looked flat and not bringing much to the party.
Dwight Howard continued to score with ease and pulled the Magic back to 9 down. Andrea Bargnani would answer on the other end with a basket. Magic were struggling from beyond the arc that was made evident as Hedo Turkoglu miss a wide open 3 pointer. Andrea Bargnani would get fouled and was at the line and made a pair. He had 13 points and was playing well again. Jameer Nelson would answer with a jump shot for the Magic and cut it to single digits again. Nelso would later hit a 3 ball and the once 15 point Raptor lead had been cut to just 6 with score 50-44. Triano had seen enough to call a time-out and try and get this team back on track. It had been a tremedous first half effort and it was going down the tubes late in the half. Out of the time out the Raptors went to Bosh who had been silent since early. Bosh would be mugged but no foul call. Instead the ball would go out of bounds and the Raptors with a short shot clock could not score. Hedo Turkoglu would score answered by Anthony Parker. However Jameer Nelson was heating up and he made antother 3 pointer and that was the lead 3. Chris Bosh would get a call the next time up the floor and cash in 2-2 form the line and Raptors lead 54-49. Will Solomon was able to score on a jumper thanks to some hustle as the Raptors got a second chance to score after an A.P missed runner in the lane. Magic missed a couple long range bombs and the Raptors had a chance to build the lead back to 9 points. However Bosh would miss a fading jumper. Still the Raptors were hanging on and had a 56-49 lead at the half.
Bryan Colangelo was talking at halftime. He was in full spin mode it would seem. He was asked if he would ever consider trading Chris Bosh but he said No to that suggestion. Colangelo down played all the trade rumours that were out there. He talked about the difficulties in making a trade. He also taked about the idea of Carlos Delfino and he suggested that he would be interested in having him back but suggested that would likely happen next year as opposed to this year. He continued to defend Andrea Bargnani and talked about him still being young and learning. When he was asked if the only players he would not move at this point were Calderon and Bosh he did a masterful job of ducking the question. But based on his comments on Bargnani it seems he is still not ready to give up on him. He did say the now standard line that he is always looking to improve the team and do what he can to make it better. Colangelo is a very smart guy in talking with the media and he never truly makes any mistakes.
Jack Armstrong followed up on the comments of Colangelo and talked about how Carlos Delfino would be a nice fit for this team and could play some time at the point guard position for the Raptors and add some needed grit. He also talked about how Andrea as he sees it will be a 5 in this league going forward. He said you can see him responding to more minutes and oppurtunity. I can not argue the point as Bargnani has been putting in consistent performances the last few games playing at the 5. But the question will be what happens when O'Neal returns and how will that be handled. I mentioned a few days ago it could end up being a very trick and toxic situation if not handled correctly. So that was a more interesting halftime than you average one. But it was on to the second half and see if the Raptors could continue to shock with a great perfomance against the Magic.
It was a good start as the Raptors went right to Bosh and he had a two handed throw down. The Magic on their first possesion would turn it over. In fact they would have back to back turnovers to start the 3rd quarter to the dismay of both Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy. Bosh meanwhile had scored the first 4 points of the quarter as he made a jump shot. Dwight Howard would score in response but quickly after that picked up his 3rd foul of the afternoon. Raptor led 60-51 early in the 3rd. Jameer Nelson who was a factor late in the first half, found his way to the line and made a pair from the line. Anthony Parker would come back with a score for the home side. Rashard Lewis would answer that with a 3 pointer and Raptors lead had been cut to just 6 points. Anthony Parker would respond with a jumper and he was 7-8 from the field on the day. In a season that he has struggled he was having one of his best performances of it on this day. He had 14 points and the Raptors lead was 64-56.
Magic made another turnover as a pass went sailing out of bounds. The Raptors could not turn that mistake into points on the other end. Rashard Lewis just keeps shooting and he made his 4th shoot from beyond the arc on the afternoon. Anthony Parker would answer that with a Parker dunk. Stan Van Gundy had seen enough of parker scoring and took Bogans who was gaurding him out of the game. Andrea Bargnani though would hit a 3 pointer and he would score diving to the basket for another 2 points. The Raptors continued to lead 71-61. Magic would make there way to the line to 4 made free throws and the lead was cut back to 6 points. Chris Bosh would get a score in response on a feed from Andrea. But Jameer Nelson had a 3 point answer for that and Raptors were fighting hard to stay in front. Anthony Parker would get another basket to push the lead back to 7 point where in began to start the quarter. Dwight Howard would score to make it 75- 70 for the Raptors. Rashard Lewis would follow up with 3 pointer number 5 for him on the day and the Raptor lead was down to just 2 points. Jay Triano would call a time out and try to get things back on track. Orlando was using the 3 point shot to stay in this game. Nelson and Lewis were the key contributors to the 11 made 3 pointers for Orlando.
Jake Voskhul had checked in and missed a jump shot badly. But the next time the Raptors would be able to hook up Parker for another dunk via the Ukic pass. Courtney Lee would answer that with another 3 pointer for the Magic. A steal and a dunk by Dwight Howard and Orlando had their first lead since 17-16 in the first quarter. So after a really solid effort from the Raptors they would find themselves down 1 point after 3 quarters. It almost did not seem fair as the Raptors had really earned a better fate to this point. The problem was the perimeter defense that had been the same issue that saw the Magic bounce Toronto from the playoffs in April.
Chris Bosh would start the 4th quarter on the bench hoping to be able to lead the charge down the stretch to an unexpected win. Both teams would fail to score on their opening efforts of the quarter. It would take over two minutes in the quarter to get a score but it would be a thunderous Dwight Howard dunk that would break open the score sheet. Raptors would get to the line and make a pair of free throws. Howard would drive and score and draw a foul on Andrea Bargnani. Howard had 33 in the game and that was a season high. Jamario Moon would make a 3 pointer and J.J Redick would answer with a 3-ball of his own. Jason Kapono would make a basket and be fouled by J.J and have a chance to cut the Magic lead back to 1 after a time out on the floor.
Raptor point guards had combined for 17 points and 8 assists with just 2 turnovers. Kapono meanwhile would make his free throw and it was 86-85 Orlando. Chris Bosh was waiting to check in but before he could he would see Jason Kapono make a shot and give his team the lead. Andrea Bargnani had picked up 3 fouls in the quarter and had 4 in the game that was a concern. Reddick the former Duke star would score and Oklahoma State Cowboy alum Joey G would respond and it was Raptor leading 89-88. Dwight Howard who didn't go to college was at the line and could only make 1-2 and we were tied at 89. The Raptors would respond by Roko Ukic getting to the line and he would make both of his and the Raptors lead 91-89 with 6:48 to play. J.J Redick made a big 3 pointer to put the Magic back into the lead. Anthony Parker normally takes a lot of 3's but today he was a dunking machine as he had another exposing Redick on the defensive end. Raptors would have lead 93-92 with 5:57 left in regulation time.
Some more key free throws for Rashard Lewis that he would make to put Orlando back on top. That foul was not on Bargnani but the next time down the floor after a Raptor miss it would be. Howard would make both frome the line and he had 36 points and Andrea had 5 fouls and Jay Triano would take Bargnani out of the game. Anthony Parker would make a 3 pointer and tie the score at 95. The Superman show would continue on the other end as he would score again. Roko Ukic would make his way to the line again in response and make a few more key free throws and we were tied at 97. Dwight Howard would get back to the line and he would go 1-2. Joey Graham would miss a runner in the lane. The Magic would not be able to make the Raptors pay. Anthony Parker scored again to give the Raptors the lead he had 26 points. Rashard Lewis would answer with a 3 point bomb and the Magic were back on top 101-99 with 2:59 to go. This was a heck of an entertaining basketball game for one that a lot of folks would have though could have been a Magic blowout victory. It was anything but that though as the Raptors were fighting hard for a win.
Chris Bosh had got himself to the line with a chance to tie the score. He would make the first and the second and we were even again at 101-101. Antrhony Parker getting it done on defense as well with a steal. It would lead to a Bosh drive and what was thought to be a score. But instead it would be a fould and no basket. Bosh would make both clutch free throws and the Raptors lead 103-101 with just over 2 minutes to play. Howard would head to the line foulded by Bosh which would be his 4th. Howard could only go 1-2 again. He would be really scary if he could ever figure out how to make free throws. He had 39 points despite missing 7 free throws on the day. Roko Ukic was remaining in this game down the stretch and playing well. Parker would have a rare miss and the Magic would have a chance to take the lead. The Raptors forced the Magic to burn a time out with a trap on Hedo in the corner and 4 seconds left on the shot clock and 1:25 in the 4th. Rashard Lewis was forced into a turnover and the Raptors had another chance to extend the lead but could not. But the Magic again failed to take the lead. Roko Ukic would not allow the Raptors to miss 3 times as he would hit the biggest shot of his young NBA career. Raptors had a 105-102 lead with 38.1 seconds to play. J.J Redick would take and miss a 3 pointer and Chris Bosh would grab the rebound and be fouled and sent to the line. He would make the first that would make it a 2 possesion game. He would make the second as well. Moon would block a desprate 3-ball attempt from Turkoglu. Bosh would grab it again and be sent to the line where he would split a pair. Raptors had a 108-102 lead. There was only 9.2 seconds left and this would be a huge win for the Raptors to have heading to Milwaukee. Rashard Lewis would throw up one more 3-ball that would not fall. The Raptors win and shock their fans and the Magic. I really can not believe the effort of this basketball team playing without two of it's stars. You have to look at this boxscore to believe that this took place because it was that amazing.
The Raptors have a remarkable homestand in which they win 2 of 3 against Houston and now Orlando. I have to say I am pretty shocked by all of this. After I go pinch myself to make sure I am awake I will have more to say about this in the blog tomorrow. But I like you am a happy camper and will just close by saying this was a great effort and a team win and I am going to enjoy it as should you.