Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

Raptors beat Magic 108-94 to trail Orlando 2-1 in playoff series

TORONTO - Midway through the opening quarter Thursday, Jamario Moon snatched the ball off an unsuspecting Maurice Evans and sprinted downcourt to finish with a huge dunk.


TORONTO - Midway through the opening quarter Thursday, Jamario Moon snatched the ball off an unsuspecting Maurice Evans and sprinted downcourt to finish with a huge dunk.

And in that instant, any lingering worries about slow starts and lacklustre effort left over from two losses at Orlando all but disappeared. T.J. Ford scored 21 points as the Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic 108-94, dominating the game from the opening whistle for the first time in the series.

And when the final buzzer sounded, Raptors captain Chris Bosh stood at centre court with his arms raised to the crowd.

"Just to let them know how important this game was," Bosh said. "We're definitely trying to pick this series up and turn it around. We're trying to even it up. Today was the most important game of the season so far and we played like it and stepped up to the challenge."

Jose Calderon came off the bench to add 18 points and 13 assists for the Raptors, who now trail the Magic 2-1 in the best-of-seven playoff series. Bosh and Jason Kapono had 15 points apiece, Jamario Moon finished with 11 points and 10 boards, and Anthony Parker chipped in with 10 points.

"We had a lot more energy tonight, everybody did a great job on the offensive boards, and we were really scrapping," said Bosh. "We got some good steals, we got some big blocks and more importantly we got the rebounds, and our defence was good."

Hedo Turkoglu scored 26 points to top Orlando, while Dwight Howard had 19 points and 12 rebounds, playing almost the final nine minutes with five fouls.

"I thought right from the get-go, the Raptors were outstanding, played the game extremely well," said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy.

The Magic suffered a scare moments after the game, when point guard Jameer Nelson collapsed on his way to the dressing room with back spasms. Van Gundy said Nelson received an elbow to the back late in the game but continued to play. The coach added that Nelson was up and walking minutes later, and was hopeful the guard will be OK to go in Game 4, which is Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.

The Raptors were done in by double-digit deficits both Games 1 and 2 at Orlando, and they vowed not to let it happen again. They responded with a franchise high for points in a post-season game, Toronto coach Sam Mitchell inserted Moon into the starting lineup for Rasho Nesterovic to provide some spark out of the gate, and the move paid off.

"We just needed to get off to a better start," Mitchell said.

The athletic forward had eight points and five rebounds in the first quarter, and his dunk in the early going brought the capacity crowd of 20,023 red-clad fans at the Air Canada Centre to their feet.

"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive and try to bring energy to my teammates," Moon said. "I just wanted to come out and get on the glass and get my hands on as many balls as I can - make it tough for the guy I was guarding."

Mitchell also decided to stick with Ford as his starting point guard, despite his struggles in the first two games. The pint-sized guard played at full throttle Thursday, and behind his 18 first-half points, the Raptors were up by 13 points in the first quarter, and had stretched their lead to as much as 23 late in the second.

"I just told T.J. be aggressive," Bosh said. "He knows, he's a very good player and he played like it today."

The Raptors' 61-40 halftime lead marked a franchise high for playoff points in a half.

Toronto took an 80-69 lead into the fourth. A three-pointer by Keith Bogans pulled Orlando within 11 points with 6:12 to play, but a flurry of Raptor baskets that included two big dunks by Bosh and threes by Kapono and Carlos Delfino had Toronto back up by 18 with two minutes left in the game.

Toronto's point-guard tandem was as good as its been all season. Calderon stepped in seamlessly for Ford, and played all of the fourth quarter, leading Toronto in a strong finish. Kapono also played well for the third straight post-season game, shooting 6-for-10 from the field.

The Raptors shot 49 per cent on the night, while Orlando connected on 47 per cent of its shots. The Raptors outrebounded Orlando 42-34.

The Raptors fed off the noisy Air Canada Centre crowd, a sea of red thanks to a T-shirt giveaway. The noise at times was ear-splitting, and the jeers were saved for Howard as the crowd chanted "Superman sucks!" - a reference to his caped-performance on NBA all-star weekend.

"I loved it," Bosh said with a chuckle. "That just shows how important the crowd is. We know he doesn't suck, he's had 20 (points) and 20 (rebounds) in two games this series. It just shows you how intense the crowd is and how much they want to win."

Howard didn't love it.

"It's like us against the world. What can I do?" Howard said. "They say Superman sucks, I'll just show them that Superman really doesn't suck."

Mitchell said the intensity of the crowd was a huge factor in the win.

"The fans were great. It's tough to play in an environment like that," the coach said. "It makes you just keep digging a little bit deeper no matter how tired you get and I just thought our fans were great and I think our guys fed off it."

The Raptors never trailed by more than four points, and that was in the first three minutes of the game, and they promptly went on a 22-5 run, capped by a Moon layup that put them up by 13 points, Toronto took a 28-20 lead into the second.

Toronto continued their domination in the second, a three by Calderon putting Toronto up by 18 with just over five minutes to go in the half. The Raptors would go ahead by as much as 23 points on a dunk by Bosh with 13 seconds left, and went into the dressing room up by 21.

The Magic opened the third with a 13-3 run to cut Toronto's lead to 11 points. The Raptors were up 80-69 with one quarter left.

NOTES: Turkoglu received a technical foul midway through the third quarter for arguing a call. . . The Raptors have won nine of 12 playoff games at the ACC. . . Game 5 will go Monday at Orlando. Game 6, if necessary, would be back in Toronto on May 1, with Game 7 tentatively scheduled for May 3 at Orlando.

 
Consider AlsoFurther Articles