Kawhi Leonard scored 37 points, Kyle Lowry bounced back from a scoreless playoff opener with 22 and the Toronto Raptors routed the Orlando Magic 111-82 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), evening their Eastern Conference first-round series at one win apiece. KLOE finished the game with a full stat sheet: 22 points, a team-high seven assists, four rebounds, two steals, a block and +30 plus/minus.
With the arrival of Leonard and Gasol, the maturation of Pascal Siakam (19 points and 10 rebounds on Tuesday), the perpetual motion of Danny Green, the Raptors have, in a few short seasons, evolved from an iso-heavy outfit to one that can beat teams with the pass.
Aaron Gordon led the Orlando scoring with 20 points while Terrence Ross finished with 15 and Evan Fournier 10. Presumably none of this would have taken place if Lowry had made just two of his six 3-point attempts, most of which were open, and the Raptors had eked out a win.
And now they have him right where they need him to be for their first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic.
The fans at Scotiabank Arena were clearly in his corner as well because when he scored his first points of the ball game he was showered with cheers. "I've just gotta figure it out and find a way to be more aggressive and be more efficient offensively".
Playing at the Amway Center, where the Magic haven't lost since February 22 - a nine-game win streak - the Raptors will need to match Tuesday's defensive effort that, particularly in the opening minutes, was as good as its ever been. Coming off a season in San Antonio that saw him play just nine games because of a serious quadriceps injury, the MVP of the 2014 National Basketball Association finals had praised Toronto's staff for the careful load management program that got him to the playoffs feeling healthy and rested. "Obviously, losing Game 1 at home is not what they wanted and not what they expected". They knew they were better than that.
Two free throws by Siakam 29 seconds later had the lead up to 16. But Leonard wasn't acquired for the regular season - he was acquired to be the kind of destroyer of worlds that had the Raptors go from a punchline every postseason to a team that could win a championship. I thought the smart guy was thinking too much. "We didn't feel like we played our best basketball in Game 1", he said.
Vucevic shot a woeful 3-for-14 in Game 1, and 3-for-7 in Game 2.
Game 3 and 4 are Friday and Sunday in Orlando.
"We expect a great response from them", said Orlando centre Nikola Vucevic. He's averaging just 8.5 points and seven rebounds. "Then, at the beginning of the third quarter, they were good and, frankly, we were very bad". Ross had 15 of Orlando's 17 bench points in the first half.
Toronto is 6-9 in Game 3s in the playoffs over the years, but has dropped four straight after winning three in a row ... The other four Orlando starters made 9 of 33. They played him physical.
McCaw hasn't played since March 28 due to a thumb injury. They're loaded with savvy veterans who understand how to manufacture both stops and shots, how to counter length, as they did in Game 2, and how to shrink the floor against an opponent with offensive limitations.