ORLANDO - Those first three to 3-1/2 quarters have actually been pretty good for the Raptors.
And they certainly were on Sunday. But putting away an opponent for the victory is proving to be the Raptors’ Achilles heel ... at least it is this early in the season.
For the second game in a row, against a team considered to be superior, the Raptors put themselves in a position to win the game.
Up 11 points with 12 minutes to play against the Magic, however, was not the enviable situation it looked to be.
“It’s almost like a broken record,” Dwane Casey said the home side rallied to win 102-96, an eerily similar loss to the one the Raps absorbed Dallas two nights earlier.
Through three quarters here, the Raptors held the Magic to just 70 points on 43% shooting. In the fourth alone, the Magic scored 32 points on 71% shooting while the Raptors offence all but dried up.
“We just have to be able to finish it out now,” Casey said.
Give the Magic shooters — Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick — credit for making some unbelievably tough fourth-quarter shots. But at the same time, one has to wonder when the Raptors are going to create some of that fourth-quarter magic themselves.
“We really made the game for three quarters,” said Andrea Bargnani, who led he Raps with 28 points. “We played good offence and great defence for three quarters, but then we didn’t play the fourth quarter. We were really bad on offence and we gave up a little on the defensive end. They did make some tough shots. Anderson, J.J .and Hedo, those guys really played good. Those shots they made in the fourth were really something.”
At the other end of the floor, other than a three-ball from Bargnani with about three minutes to play, the Raptors never seemed to get the ball to the guy they wanted or in the place they wanted.
The most obvious of shots that shouldn’t have been attempted were three-point attempts, albeit open ones, by first DeMar DeRozan and then Anthony Carter who was in the game with Leandro Barbosa getting a quick rest on the bench.
Both attempts came in the midst of a 16-0 Orlando run and, while Casey refused to fault either attempt considering both had a clear opening, he didn’t let them off completely scott free.
“I’m not going to question a man’s decision if he has an open shot, but is there a better option in that situation,” Casey said, the inference being that there clearly were better options.
Calderon, who has seen this Raptors team struggle in the past still sees more positives than negatives in its approach early in the season.
“We have to just keep believing in what we are doing and the wins will come,” Calderon said. “No one said this was going to be an easy thing to do, to start winning games, right away, but I like what I see. I like what the coach is trying to get us to do and I think we can be really good.”
Calderon had a strong night running the point for the Raps finishing up with 18 points and 13 assists, although like his teammates, most of his numbers were made in the first three quarters.
Bargnani now has 58 points in his past two games, though his fourth-quarter scoring though was down in both with five points in Friday’s loss and just three on Sunday.
Rasual Butler has been around the NBA and been a member of both young teams and veteran teams. He sees this young Toronto eventually finding it’s way but right now stumbling to get over that fourth quarter hump.
“The coach mentioned in the huddle we had almost done everything we needed to do to win the game,” Butler said. “We are somewhat of a young team, but in the fourth quarter good teams slow down a little bit offensivley and make sure they get the shot that they want, make sure they get the ball to the guy they want to.
“Defensively we really can’t have any mental lapses in the fourth. That has to be the time we lock in and focus the most. We will get there,” Butler said.