Raptors use suffocating defence to overcome cold shooting against Magic

Norman Powell scored a career-high 33 points as the Toronto Raptors used smothering defence to overcome a cold shooting night to beat the Orlando Magic 90-83 on Friday night.

The victory was the sixth-straight for the Raptors, who improved to 14-4 on the season, and the seventh-straight against the Magic, dating back to their first-round playoff series last season.

Here are a few takeaways from an ugly-yet-impressive Toronto victory in Orlando.

Norman was stormin’

Finishing with 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting, including a 5-for-8 mark from deep, Powell looked every bit as good on the Amway Center court as his new fresh cut suggested he would.

His third quarter, in particular, was absolutely outrageous as he scored 19 of the Raptors’ 26 points in the frame — including the team’s first 10 by himself — and shooting a scorching 7-of-9 from the floor, flexing just about everything in his scorer’s bag of tricks.

This includes corner-threes:

Top-of-the-arc triples:

Circus finishes at the rim:

And, of course, big-time throw-downs:

But as cool as a 19-point single-quarter eruption is, Norm’s was a particularly impactful one. The Raptors needed it, desperately, as they were down seven at the half and struggling from everywhere — shooting just 30.6 per cent from the field, and scoring only 40 points.

Powell’s electric surge in the third helped propel Toronto to an 18-6 run, ending the quarter with their own seven-point lead — one they would never look back from.

Raptors D suffocates Magic

But as great as Powell was Friday night, perhaps the true hero for the Raptors was their team defence, which kept them in the game and allowed Powell’s hot run to convert into a sizeable lead they were able to hold onto.

As mentioned before, besides Powell, the Raptors weren’t good offensively, shooting only 36.9 per cent from the floor and 11-of-38 from three-point range despite getting many, many good, open looks.

However, the Raptors still managed to pull out the victory while building a brick house because they forced the Magic to turn the ball over 24 times — ending up with six more field-goal attempts as a result — and held the Magic to a lowly 34.6 per cent shooting from the field and 7-for-29 from deep.

And in that game-shifting third quarter, while Powell was going nuts, Toronto’s defence held the Magic to just a measly 12 points, even stymying them for a 6:17 period in the quarter without a single point.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse said on Sportsnet 590 the FAN Thursday that Toronto’s strong defensive play began in Game 2 against these same Magic in the playoffs last season, and on Friday night it looked like things came full circle, in a sense, as the Raptors’ defence was probably the biggest reason for their win.

Raptors find a way, even as Siakam struggles

If someone were to tell you that Pascal Siakam scored just 10 points on a dismal 4-for-22 shooting and 1-of-7 night from deep you’d likely assume the Raptors would’ve lost the game, but, evidently, Toronto doesn’t necessarily need their best player to be on all the time to win ball games.

Siakam had his worst offensive performance of the season on Friday, but it’s all moot because, in the end, the Raptors still found a way to pull this one out — thanks largely to Powell and overall team defence.

Obviously, Siakam’s part of that defence and did his part on that end as well as anyone else did. And even though he failed to produce buckets at the rate fans have become accustomed to this season, Siakam did still manage to rack up a team-high five assists — a number that becomes even more impressive considering how poorly Toronto shot the ball — and five of his 13 rebounds came on the offensive glass, giving him a double-double.

Just like how the Raptors found a path to victory even with their top gun shooting blanks, Siakam still found a way to positively impact the team’s offence when he knew he was off.