Raptors impose their will in Game 3 road win over Magic

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Raptors impose their will in Game 3 road win over Magic


Raptors impose their will in Game 3 road win over Magic | The Star

ORLANDO, FLA.—Now three games into a playoff series, as the Raptors and Orlando Magic find themselves at the moment, the time for serious or stark strategic change has come and gone.

It is now about will and toughness, both mental and physical, and the Raptors showed more than enough of it here Friday night.

Raptor Kawhi Leonard looks for daylight with Orlando’s Aaron Gordon defending in Friday night’s Game 3 in Orlando. Leonard played 37 minutes after missing two days of practice because of illness.
Raptor Kawhi Leonard looks for daylight with Orlando’s Aaron Gordon defending in Friday night’s Game 3 in Orlando. Leonard played 37 minutes after missing two days of practice because of illness.  (John Raoux / The Associated Press)

Fighting foul trouble and a rare off-night offensively from Kawhi Leonard, Toronto’s ability to “impose its will” on the game at the most significant moments was the difference in a spellbinding 98-93 victory over the Magic at an electric Amway Center.

The win gives Toronto a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes here Sunday night. Game 5 is in Toronto on Tuesday with Game 6, if necessary, back in Florida on Thursday night.

For all the time between games to think about adjustments and make them, as a playoff series progresses it’s often just a matter of working harder, concentrating more, playing with a consistently high level of intensity. Players tendencies are almost immediately apparent. The counters to counters to specific moves aren’t all that hard for smart professionals to understand. It’s just doing it.

“Play harder,” was how Kyle Lowry put it Friday morning. “Play harder than we played last game. I’m not even trying to be cliche. I’m really, like, we have to play harder than we played last game, and play harder on every possession. Just go out there and play at a pace, at a frequency where we’re playing hard and not (just) being aggressive — just playing hard — and make sure we know where we are on coverages, what we’re doing game plan wise, and make sure we execute everything.”

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And stay composed, as the Raptors did when Orlando — backed by a crowd of 19,367, which was the second-largest in the building’s history — took a one-point lead midway through the third quarter.

The veteran Toronto team, steadfast in its belief in itself, went on an 18-2 run as if to say, “Sorry, you youngsters aren’t quite ready yet.”

The run came with centre Marc Gasol on the bench with four personal fouls and with Pascal Siakam scoring half of Toronto’s points and Serge Ibaka, who had been dreadful in the first half was wonderful in the second.

“I just think he kind of does that a little bit,” coach Nick Nurse said of Ibaka. “As the game goes on, he usually gets better and better sometimes. It’s just kind of been his history a bit, but I also just give him the credit. He came in there, he knew we needed him and he just played really determined. I don’t think he had any points when he checked in. He just decided to go out and help the team the best he could. He started that on defence and I think it carried over to his offence, because he made some nice moves down there, too.”

The scoring was impressive, but no more so than the shutout defence that killed any Orlando momentum.

“I think it showed some toughness for us,” Nurse said of the performance. “It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight. I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in.

“I just liked the way we came out originally — like, we’ve got to impose our will in this game. And then I liked us, how we answered. We went down a couple of times and we answered right back immediately, I think, both times. And then we put a string of stops together and showed some great toughness there, as well.”

Siakam ended up playing nearly 43 minutes and poured in 30 points for the Raptors, while Nikola Vucevic bounced back from two awful games to score 22 for the Magic. Raptors tormentor Terrence Ross dropped 24 for Orlando, while Leonard was just 5-for-19 from the floor and had 16 points for Toronto.

“He didn’t practise the last couple days. He hadn’t been feeling that well, and for him to go out there and fight through that and still play 37 minutes … I’m most proud of his 10 rebounds,” Nurse said of Leonard. “He was just battling. It wasn’t easy for him out there tonight.”

Nurse had been asked before the game whether Siakam had done enough to solidify his spot as Toronto’s “third option” and that brought a wry smile to the coach’s face.

“If he has, he’s maybe dropped down one from the second option,” the coach joked. “He’s been great, he really has. That’s almost a serious answer. He’s probably our second option, to be honest.”

Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps

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And stay composed, as the Raptors did when Orlando — backed by a crowd of 19,367, which was the second-largest in the building’s history — took a one-point lead midway through the third quarter.

The veteran Toronto team, steadfast in its belief in itself, went on an 18-2 run as if to say, “Sorry, you youngsters aren’t quite ready yet.”

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The run came with centre Marc Gasol on the bench with four personal fouls and with Pascal Siakam scoring half of Toronto’s points and Serge Ibaka, who had been dreadful in the first half was wonderful in the second.

“I just think he kind of does that a little bit,” coach Nick Nurse said of Ibaka. “As the game goes on, he usually gets better and better sometimes. It’s just kind of been his history a bit, but I also just give him the credit. He came in there, he knew we needed him and he just played really determined. I don’t think he had any points when he checked in. He just decided to go out and help the team the best he could. He started that on defence and I think it carried over to his offence, because he made some nice moves down there, too.”

The scoring was impressive, but no more so than the shutout defence that killed any Orlando momentum.

“I think it showed some toughness for us,” Nurse said of the performance. “It was really what I thought it was going to be tonight. I really thought this was going to be a tough atmosphere to play in.

“I just liked the way we came out originally — like, we’ve got to impose our will in this game. And then I liked us, how we answered. We went down a couple of times and we answered right back immediately, I think, both times. And then we put a string of stops together and showed some great toughness there, as well.”

Siakam ended up playing nearly 43 minutes and poured in 30 points for the Raptors, while Nikola Vucevic bounced back from two awful games to score 22 for the Magic. Raptors tormentor Terrence Ross dropped 24 for Orlando, while Leonard was just 5-for-19 from the floor and had 16 points for Toronto.

“He didn’t practise the last couple days. He hadn’t been feeling that well, and for him to go out there and fight through that and still play 37 minutes … I’m most proud of his 10 rebounds,” Nurse said of Leonard. “He was just battling. It wasn’t easy for him out there tonight.”

Nurse had been asked before the game whether Siakam had done enough to solidify his spot as Toronto’s “third option” and that brought a wry smile to the coach’s face.

“If he has, he’s maybe dropped down one from the second option,” the coach joked. “He’s been great, he really has. That’s almost a serious answer. He’s probably our second option, to be honest.”

Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps

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