Home Cooking Turns Raptors Around

by Mike Ulmer
April 24, 2008

(TORONTO) - Its simple enough.

They were lost and now are found.

Everything that defined the Toronto Raptors in their first two losses against the Orlando Magic has vaporized. Turns out all they needed was a tweak to the lineup, some slightly cooler weather and 20,000 screaming, red-wearing fans.

You can score Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first rounder 108-94, the scoreboard did but it wasnt that close, not in the beginning, middle or end.

The Raptors, blitzed in the first quarter in Florida, outgunned the outsiders 28-20.

Jamario Moon, a non-factor so far in the series made his first start, scored eight points and contributed eight rebounds in the first quarter.

He brought energy, said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell.

We needed some productivity from Jamario and we thought the best way to do it was to put him out there.

T.J. Ford, ice-cold going into Game 3, lit up the second quarter and banged home 18 of his 21 points by the intermission.

The Raptors decision to go small freed up Ford and he hit the kind of mid-range jumpers that are the key to his game. Late in the quarter Ford hit two free throws, a pair of pull-up jumpers, stole the ball, hit a 19-foot jumper and then, a possession later, drove the basket for a delicate finger roll and then fed Bosh for a dunk. Other than that, he was pretty quiet.

I just thought T.J. at the start of the game, he was aggressive, he came off screens, said Mitchell. They were sagging off him because he was not shooting the ball well. Our whole message to T.J. was if they are going to let you shoot the ball, youve got to step up and be aggressive.

Jose Calderon was every bit as effective. Calderon finished with 18 points and 13 assists. Between them, the Raptor point guards were responsible for 39 points including five for nine from beyond the arc and 16 assists with a very bearable four turnovers.

Thats the Raptor team weve got to be, Calderon enthused. Thats how weve got to play, aggressive and everybody together.

The Raptors hustled, they trapped relentlessly and forced the visitors into 14 turnovers. Most impressively, they outrebounded the Magic 42-34 and even enjoyed a 13-10 bulge in offensive boards.

We allowed them to play smaller but they outrebounded us, said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. That is a bad omen for us that were going to get outrebounded with that lineup.

While he collected 19 points with 12 rebounds, Dwight Howard did not show the dominance he flashed in Orlando.

We knew Toronto was going to come out with a better effort, Howard said. We expected it. We just didnt weather the storm. Every possession, loose balls, three or four guys were going for it. They wanted it more than we did.

Jameer Nelson, the second coming of Dwyane Wade in Games 1 and 2, was awful. He didnt score until late in the fourth and his six points were an afterthought. Maurice Evans, the other starting guard, could not score.

Game 4 in what could turn into a riotously entertaining series goes Saturday afternoon and Bosh believes the din will be even more distracting then.

I think it will be a lot worse for the Magic, he said.

Its tough to play in an environment like that, Mitchell said. We knew our crowd would be behind us. It makes you keep digging a little bit deeper.