10 things: Norman Powell wills sluggish Raptors to victory over Magic

William Lou
NBA reporter

Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 90-83 win over the Orlando Magic.

One — Sluggish: A win is a win, but this bordered on unwatchable. The Raptors hit just 29 per cent from deep and just 60 per cent from the foul line, despite ranking first and fifth in those categories on the season. The Raptors were far from clinical on offence, but it was almost comical how badly they misfired on the most wide open of looks.

Two — Hero: The only Raptor who had it going was Norman Powell, who parlayed a 19-point third quarter in which he single-handedly outscored the Magic into a career-high 33 points. Rocking a fresh haircut, Powell was erratic out of the gate with two ill-advised pull-up threes, but he settled into a rhythm in the second half. Powell caught Orlando napping for two threes in the third, and mixed in a handful of impressive driving layups that erased a deficit and gave Toronto the lead. Powell stayed hot until the fourth quarter, where he pushed the lead into double digits with a triple off a pin-down. Powell always relishes his matchups against Terrence Ross, and tonight he got the better of his former teammate.

Three — Critical: The turning point came early in the fourth quarter. Orlando’s bench cut the deficit to one thanks to a pair of dunks from Mo Bamba, and Nick Nurse wisely called timeout to reverse his mistake. Nurse opened the quarter with a small-ball lineup with OG Anunoby at centre, but it was clear Anunoby was both tired and out of position. Nurse tabbed Chris Boucher to match Bamba’s length, and the impact was immediate: Boucher secured a key defensive rebound, blocked D.J. Augustin on a three, and finished an and-one as part of a 9-0 run that allowed the Raptors to pull away.

Four — Bewildering: This was an off night for Pascal Siakam, although there wasn’t really a cause for it. Jonathan Isaac generally covers Siakam well in isolation, but Siakam was just missing point-blank shots and getting into his own head. At one point in the fourth quarter, Nurse sketched a clever play that got Siakam wide open under the rim for a layup, but even that shot rimmed out. Nurse and Siakam could only laugh at it, as Siakam finished the night shooting 4-of-22 from the field. Nevertheless, it was still a nervy finish as Siakam lost his confidence and threw two horrendous passes in the fourth that gave the Magic chances to break out.

Five — Clamps: Thankfully, none of the Raptors’ offensive struggles seemed to matter, as their defence made it impossible for the Magic to score. Orlando shot 13-of-43 and committed 11 turnovers in the second half, as the Raptors had an answer for everything. Ross was swarmed at the three-point arc, Evan Fournier was challenged to drive into the lane, and the Magic’s bigs couldn’t take a single dribble without the ball being swiped by one of Toronto’s smaller defenders. Maybe it’s just a function of Nikola Vucevic’s injury (although the Raptors have an antidote for him, too, in Marc Gasol), but the Raptors were facing the Magic for the third time in three weeks, and the Raptors knew every trick in their book.

Six — Scrappy: Fred VanVleet was miserable on offence, as he got blocked at least a half-dozen times on his overzealous drives to the rim. However, he made up for that with five timely threes, and by recording a career-high seven steals in the win. VanVleet often found himself switched onto bigger players, but he would always attack the dribble and none of Orlando’s forwards could capitalize. Most importantly, VanVleet never lost his cool, stayed locked in on the task at hand, and closed out the game efficiently. His maturity is invaluable in close games.

Seven — Clever: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is more than just hustle. He frequently makes smart passes and has become a focal point of the offence for the second unit. Hollis-Jefferson made a handful of timely hit-ahead passes to fuel the fast break, and he dropped a no-look dime to Siakam for what was quite possibly the only highlight-worthy play on an otherwise miserable night.

Eight — Tireless: Anunoby struggled mightily on offence — he missed two wide-open threes from the same spot on one painful possession in the fourth — but he made up for it on defence. Anunoby hounded the Magic at every turn, and made it virtually impossible for his man to even dribble in his presence. Anunoby has learned to impose his will against perimeter players, because he is simply longer and stronger than every guard in the league. He finished with three steals in 35 minutes.

Nine — Unfortunate: Terence Davis is getting a rookie whistle, and it’s the main hinderance in his game at the moment. Davis has a tendency to hold and grab (perhaps owing to his roots as a football player) and officials show no leniency for undrafted rookies. Davis was caught with his hands in the cookie jar right before the buzzer on a heave by Fournier, then got too aggressive and bumped Augustin off a screen. When he returned after sitting with two fouls, Davis immediately picked up his third on an unfortunate sequence where he was shoved into Markelle Fultz by Khem Birch. Davis is now averaging 4.8 fouls per 36 minutes on the season, which is an astronomical average for a guard. He must learn how to rein in his aggression.

Ten — Enough is enough: This (American) Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that the Raptors won’t play Orlando again until the last game of the season. This matchup is tired.

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