Thursday, 25 April, 2019

Leonard scores 37, Lowry has 22 as Raptors rout Magic 111-82

Rick Zamperin: Toronto Raptors show what they’re really made of Toronto Raptors: A Brief History of Kyle Lowry and Game Two
Cassandra Castillo | 17 April, 2019, 13:10

You want to know why you trade the most beloved player in franchise history? The ball ended up in the hands of a wide open Marc Gasol, who just missed, but that Nurse still felt like Lowry was an option says a lot about his faith in his all-star. The Scotiabank Arena crowd was on the edge of their seats waiting to give Lowry their support should he sink the second free throw.

Kawhi Leonard scored 37 points on 15-for-22 shooting from the field, and the Toronto Raptors defeated the visiting Orlando Magic 111-82 Tuesday night to even their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series at one game apiece.

Nurse said, via Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, that Lowry was "at his finest" on Tuesday night.

It's always important to remember how thin the margins are. Lowry pulled in seven on Saturday, near the top of all Raptors. Early on, it appeared the Raptors were positioned to roll to a comfortable victory over an inferior opponent. They were very effective double-teaming Vucevic's post-ups, holding the Magic big man to 3-of-7 from the field. Kyle Lowry and company will make the necessary adjustments that they need to. "He played well, he adjusted well". It's the playoffs - and he got a little bit more physical, you know?

Two things about that.

"There's regular season players and there's playoff players", Pierce stated. That's an easy fix going forward.

"I think 1-0 or 0-1 whatever it would be, we throw everything at 'em to try to win the game", Nurse said. With Siakam as his primary defender, Isaac finished the game minus-10, the lowest on his team by a mile. "He's a problem on both ends of the floor".

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So, what was the difference between Saturday and the times Siakam struggled against Orlando during the regular season? "It's playoffs. You kind of look at every single detail and try to use whatever you see in your advantage". Me not scoring any points doesn't mean I didn't affect the game. "And just be more patient and understanding of what they're doing". After a season in which he played just nine times for San Antonio, and had such a disagreement with the Spurs over treatment of his quad injury that it fractured his relationship with the organization and ultimately led to the trade, the Raptors were obviously going to prioritize keeping him healthy and happy.

The Raptors never trailed, charging out to a 16-point first-half lead which they would turn into 24 points in the third, largely thanks to a spectacular third quarter by Leonard. After spending three days hearing how good Orlando's defense was, Leonard and company put on a clinic. "He played it pretty well".

"I guess I had a decision to make there, right?" He had some wide-open looks - it would've been a really good game, probably. "But he did a nice job of getting it where he wanted to go with some physicality, moving it around their length, and finishing".

Where Lowry does seem to improve in game twos is his ability to get high percentage shots closer to the rim and to draw more fouls. If he'd hit two, the narrative around this team, this series, would be completely different today.

"We didn't feel we played our best basketball in Game 1", Leonard said.

Aaron Gordon's 20 points were the sole bright spot for the Magic, as Evan Fournier's 10 points came on an ugly 4-for-12 shooting night where he went 2-for-7 from long range. Defensive energy is entirely within your own control. As good as DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have been in years past, Leonard's facility in creating efficient offense for himself is on another tier, giving the team a dimension they haven't had before.

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