TORONTO – With the Raptors looking for win #48 and a feisty Orlando team in town, it took a late 10-0 run to seal the deal as they ran to a 105-100 victory.
Easier said than done for a Toronto team that saw just eight players reach the floor, and several unorthodox lineups coach Dwane Casey was forced to employ.
DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 25, including 13-16 from the charity stripe, Luis Scola chipped in 20, and Bismack Biyombo double-doubled with 12 points, 11 rebounds and added six blocks.
Orlando was led by 21 points apiece from Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier while Canadian forward Andrew Nicholson had 15 points and nine rebounds.
Jonas Valanciunas and Cory Joseph dressed but did not play, and an injured Patrick Patterson and DeMarre Carroll were not available.
The difference between resting players for the stretch run and trying to overtake the Cleveland Cavaliers (just one game back!) for top spot in the East is something Casey will have to manage carefully.
“It’s a double-edged sword. It’s important to our organization and to the city to fight for a championship,” said the Raptors coach. “To even talk about playing for a championship is important, and it’s never been done here before.”
“Believe me, nobody wants to win more than me, but the overall health of your players and the mileage and the minutes on your players’ bodies is something we’ve got to be smart with.”
Vereran forward Luis Scola echoed that statement post-game saying the advantage over Cleveland doesn’t really matter.
“Unless we get to a seventh game in the Eastern Finals, it’s not going to make a difference so we just need to stay healthy.”
Between the rest and the coming returns of several key players, a small opening has been made playing time for rookies Norman Powell and Delon Wright, and new recruit Jason Thompson who played the entire fourth quarter in tonight’s win.
The Raptors led by double digits in the first half but the Magic pulled even and led by two, 55-53 at the half.
They’ll have to tighten up going forward with win #49 and a shot at the first 50-win season in franchise history on deck on an upcoming three-game road trip.
Stay tuned to NPH for more Raptors coverage down the stretch run, and an upcoming video interview with Andrew Nicholson.