The Toronto Raptors took advantage of the slumping Orlando Magic Wednesday night to win their only game of the season’s series, 108-103.
The Magic had defeated the Raptors three previous times already this season. Normally one would expect Raptors fans to be relieved and happy at finally stealing a game from their higher-rated rivals, but this game brought forth as much frustration as ecstasy.
The Raptors played well in this game and were in full measure for their win.
The Magic, on the other hand, were frustrated easily, picking up two early technical fouls from arguing calls with the referees. They were understandably tired after losing the front end of a back-to-back the night before and mostly likely mad at themselves for losing their past two games to teams with under .500 records.
At the end of the third quarter, it was the Toronto Raptors in command of this game, 86-68.
To this point the referees had not called many fouls, and the totals stood 18 for Toronto, 14 for Orlando.
Andrea Bargnani was playing excellent single-coverage defense on Dwight Howard, which included an impressive block on a layup attempt. Howard ended the night with nine turnovers to go with his 20 points and 12 boards.
The Magic used an effective swarming defensive scheme on Chris Bosh, which led him to six turnovers to go with his 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Although both All-Stars ended up with double-doubles, neither was able to take over the game.
In the fourth quarter, the game's momentum shifted.
The first big change started just 19 seconds into the quarter, when Bosh was assessed a personal foul, sending Brandon Bass to the free throw line.
Nothing special about this, but that made 10 personal fouls for Toronto, sending the Magic to the free throw line for 17 attempts in the first 11 minutes of the quarter. The referees handed the Magic 13 free points that they had done little to deserve.
In the same period, the Magic were assessed zero personal fouls. And Dwight Howard, who had accumulated five fouls already, was permitted to set moving screens and fight over Raptors to get to the ball without penalty.
Only until the final minute of the period, when the Magic needed to send the Raptors to the foul line in order to get the ball back, did the Magic have to worry themselves about the referees’ calls.
But by this time the foul count stood at 28 for Toronto and 14 for Orlando!
And the referees didn’t just use the foul call to help the Magic put points on the board. Bargnani was assessed with two quick fouls with about six minutes remaining to bring him to five personal fouls and to send him to the bench.
Bargnani was Toronto’s leading scorer and had just hit two big three-pointers to score six of Toronto’s 10 points to start the quarter. Bargnani ended the night with 18 points, eight boards, and a block.
The refereeing in the fourth quarter looked a lot less than unbiased on this night.
This was also the night Jose Calderon returned to the lineup after a month-long absence due to injury. And Calderon played well, ending the night with five points and eight assists.
But Jay Triano doesn’t know when it’s too much of a good thing. For the final 7:30 of the fourth quarter, Triano played Jarrett Jack and Calderon together and watched as a 96-80 lead dwindled down to 101-99 with a minute left.
In this case, the cause and effect may not be as clear as in past games because nine of the points the Magic scored came as a result of their parade to the free throw line. But Jack, who had played well, looked lost trying to cover J.J. Redick. And Nelson scored seven of his 16 points in 6.5 minutes during this period.
The dual-point guard lineup still does not appear to work, no matter what Jack Armstrong tries to sell in the post-game commentary.
And for the second time in as many games, Triano called a timeout after the Raptors had secured a rebound with seconds left in the game, forcing the team to make a successful inbounds play that put a sure win at risk.
Maybe Triano should take a look at the game tapes and take some notes. Panicking at the end of games is a risky step to be taking as a head coach.
Nothing like having a rookie head coach to keep things interesting.
Between the referees’ calls and Triano’s coaching moves, a blowout game turned into a nail-biter. At least it was exciting!