Kyle Lowry Snaps out of Funk as Kawhi Leonard, Raptors Rout Magic in Game 2

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2019

TORONTO, CANADA - APRIL 16: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic during Game Two of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 16, 2019 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The second-seeded Toronto Raptors are back on track in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series with the seventh-seeded Orlando Magic following Tuesday's 111-82 victory in Game 2 at Scotiabank Arena.

Toronto was widely seen as an NBA Finals candidate entering the playoffs but needed Tuesday's win to tie the series at a game apiece and avoid a significant hole after dropping the first contest at home.

The trio of Kawhi Leonard (37 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals), Kyle Lowry (22 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals) and Pascal Siakam (19 points and 10 boards) led the way in the blowout, while a strong defensive effort across the roster prevented the Magic from repeating their upset.

Aaron Gordon spearheaded the losing effort for Orlando with 20 points and five rebounds.

              

Raptors Dominance Proves Game 1 Was Fool's Gold for Magic

The biggest storyline coming out of Game 1 was Lowry’s failure to shine under the playoff lights, not whether the Magic would actually win the series.

There was reason for that.

On one hand, it's fair to question Lowry's playoff legacy at this point. This is his seventh career postseason. He's never made the NBA Finals and has averaged more than 20 points just once. The closest he came to the biggest stage was the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals, but he shot a mere 39.7 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from deep in 20 playoff contests that year.

The fact he was frequently the team's go-to or No. 2 option made the showings all the more concerning.

However, he quickly answered any lingering questions as Toronto scored the first 11 points of Tuesday's game and built a double-digit halftime lead behind a balanced attack. Leonard had 17 points at halftime, Lowry had 15 and Siakam had 12 while the ball moved around for 14 assists on 20 made field goals.

With a number of options capable of scoring, Lowry didn't face singular pressure to deliver as he did earlier in his career, and he responded by doing much of the facilitating as Toronto pulled away. 

The Raptors are far more talented and balanced than the Magic, and they have battle-tested veterans who were not there for previous playoff runs: Danny Green, Marc Gasol and Leonard. This is Orlando's first postseason appearance since 2012—an important step for a franchise that has been in perpetual rebuilding mode—while the majority of the Raptors' key players are quite accustomed to playing in these pressure-packed situations.

What's more, Game 1 also seemed like a fluke because of the Magic's red-hot three-point shooting, which surely wouldn't last. They were a sparkling 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) from beyond the arc, an outlier that isn't likely to repeat itself three more times in the course of a series against a defense as stifling as Toronto’s.

Orlando regressed to the mean in Tuesday's contest, shooting 9-of-34 (26.5 percent) from downtown, which was no surprise given Toronto's No. 5 defensive rating during the regular season, per NBA.com.

Three-point shooting can be the great equalizer in a single-elimination environment such as the NCAA tournament, but talent typically rises to the top in a lengthy NBA series. The Raptors have the athletes throughout the rotation to swarm the Magic's shooters and did just that in Game 2.

Lowry answered the only actual question with his impressive showing, Leonard was his typically dominant self on both ends, Siakam showed once again why he could be the league's Most Improved Player and veteran leaders in Gasol, Green and Serge Ibaka didn't let a singular loss to an overmatched opponent derail the team's overall goals.

Toronto is still going to be in the second round regardless of Game 1's outcome.

            

What’s Next?

The series shifts to Orlando for Friday's Game 3 and Sunday's Game 4.

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