One - Statement: The Raptors didn’t just take a commanding 3-1 lead over the Magic, they used this opportunity to demoralize them. Historically, the Raptors have always lacked this ruthlessness about them in their previous playoff runs. In fact, they have never taken a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven until now, and would routinely extend series even when they were favoured. But this team is different, and they proved it tonight.
Two - Stomped: Orlando made two hard pushes, but each time Toronto had an equal response. The Magic shot out of the gate to take a 7-0 lead, but the Raptors recovered and won the quarter. Orlando also made a desperate surge towards the end of the fourth with Aaron Gordon drilling every jumper and Terrence Ross pouring in another halfcourt buzzer-beater, but the bench stepped up with Serge Ibaka nailing a jumper and hitting a driving layup, Norman Powell getting to the basket, and Fred VanVleet getting to the foul line.
Three - Cured: The bench got the Raptors into the ninth inning, and Kawhi Leonard played the role of closer. Nick Nurse smelled blood and subbed his superstar back in early, and Leonard responded by recording a chase-down block before following that up on the other end with a power drive to the basket. This is the luxury of having the best player in the series — the truly elite players can just impose their will on the game and lesser teams just have no answer for it.
Four - Balance: Leonard finally got a fair whistle in the paint for the first time all series. After being manhandled for most of the first three games, it went the other way with Leonard drawing James Harden-level foul calls when he got stuck in the paint. Having said that, it’s not as if everything was called because Leonard is simply too strong to be officiated at a standard rate. When he’s right, Leonard just drags his defender with him and puts them through the rim along with the ball.
Five - Boost: Powell is famously inconsistent, but he was due for a good performance. Powell was determined to get to the rim, and his power drives bailed out at least a handful of possessions for the second unit. Best of all, Powell also showed a rare patience around the rim and used the extra beat on his man to gather himself and go up strong to finish. He had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and finally outplayed his counterpart in Terrence Ross. Nurse described him as a “rocket to the rim” and that’s how Powell should be at all times.
Six - Hustle: Ibaka also stepped up with his energy and tenacity. He’s not getting his usual diet of midrange shots, but a large part of what made him so effective this season was his activity around the basket on putbacks and dump-off layups. Ibaka needs to keep working to get his own offense because the playmaking of the second unit just isn’t there.
Seven - Steady: At no point did Pascal Siakam try to impose his will on the game, and yet he still finished with 16 points just by feeding off the other starters. After his breakout 30-point performance, the Magic made a point to swarm and double Siakam, but he didn’t force his shot and countered the attention. He drilled a pair of catch-and-shoot threes, cut backdoor for a dunk, wiggled free in the pick-and-roll, and put the exclamation mark on the game. Siakam’s skillset is so varied and his motor is so endless that he will never be kept off the scoresheet.
Eight - Swarming: The Magic basically zoned up on the sidelines against Leonard, Siakam, and even Kyle Lowry in an effort to force the Raptors into making risky passes. A few of their cross-court feeds got picked off and Orlando converted them into transition baskets, but doubling is not a viable strategy against the starters because there’s just too much playmaking and shooting to not bleed open looks. The Raptors will find the open man, and they’re going to knock it down.
Ball movement is a beautiful thing pic.twitter.com/DTAiEepJCx
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 21, 2019
Nine - Clinch: With all the momentum in their favour, the Raptors should really shut the door and close the series out in five games. Every extra day of rest for Joel Embiid’s balky knee is a point in Philadelphia’s favour. There’s no point in wasting any more time against an opponent that is clearly inferior.
Ten - Tragic: Some loyal Magic fans stayed until the end to give their team a standing ovation for making the playoffs for the first time in seven years, but most of them left early. Chants of “Let’s go Raptors” echoed around the arena before game operations washed it out with artificial chanting.
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