Quote & Analysis: Iwundu Stepping Up, Raptors’ Smothering Defense & More
QUOTE: “I think for the most part we were trying to stick with our game plan. And we were getting just used to the game pace and how the game was going. In the second quarter I think we just moved the ball quicker, making faster decisions, playing off the catch and getting the defense moving. That helped more in the second half.” Terrence Ross on difference between his team’s offensive execution pre and post-halftime
ANALYSIS: The Magic were reminded of just how stifling the Raptors’ defense is during Wednesday’s loss. These two teams hadn’t met since late November, so it wasn’t surprising it took a little while before Orlando got into a rhythm. After shooting 25 percent and missing all nine of their 3-point attempts in the first quarter, the Magic started playing at a quicker pace, which caught Toronto off guard a few times. If the Magic see the Raptors again in the playoffs, which is what Orlando hopes happens because that would mean they climbed to the No. 7 seed, they will need to figure out ways to crack Toronto’s No. 2 ranked defense. In the four meetings this season against the Raptors, the Magic shot 38 percent overall and 27.7 percent from 3-point distance.
QUOTE: “That’s just the work I’ve been putting in. I’m always ready for whatever. If Coach needs me to play less than ten (minutes), more than ten, it doesn’t matter. I’m still just trying to go out there and get the job done. That’s just me as a player. But it all starts with the team. It all starts with the team. We have to all go out there with the same mindset and try to win the game. But it’s important that everyone does their role, play their part in this process.” – Wes Iwundu on everyone stepping up while team is shorthanded
ANALYSIS: Iwundu got extended minutes against Toronto with Michael Carter-Williams out due to a left foot tendon strain, and he made the most of the opportunity with 11 points on 4-of-6 overall shooting and 2-of-3 3-point shooting. Especially if Aaron Gordon is unable to play against Philadelphia on Friday, and it is doubtful he will with a strained left hamstring, Iwundu will have to continue to play well off the bench. Orlando’s other role players will also have to contribute. Gary Clark was another reserve who thrived Wednesday against the Raptors with 10 points.
QUOTE: “They play hard. They are very physical. They are just a really good team. They play well together. Everything we have to get offensively is hard. It’s definitely a challenge playing against them. I do hope we play against them (the Raptors) in the playoffs.” Evan Fournier on challenges Toronto presents
ANALYSIS: Nobody thought the Raptors would be this good after losing Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency. Kudos to Nick Nurse for making sure his squad didn’t get complacent after winning the title last season. No matter who the Magic match up with in the playoffs – the Bucks or the Raptors – it’s not going to be easy, obviously. Milwaukee and Toronto have the two best defenses in the league. But, the Magic are a confident club and they’re itching for a rematch against the team that knocked them out of last year’s postseason in five games.
QUOTE: “Better technique and better determination. It was one of the things we talked about today. We got some guys who are capable. They need to be technique freaks. Individual defense for some guys isn’t a natural thing. We have to stay more square. We got to slide better, believe it or not. That’s one thing I talked to them about today. I showed them a lot. When our technique is good, we are fine. And when we’re not, it’s hard. You have to be able to contain the ball to a certain degree in this league. With five out, four out, one in there’s so much skill on the floor. If you’re getting blown by every night, you better be a great offensive player.” Steve Clifford on team struggling to keep ball handlers in front of them
ANALYSIS: This has been a puzzling weakness of the Magic for a big portion of the season. Orlando has a plethora of above-average defenders, and yet they have struggled preventing opposing guards from driving past them. Per Second Spectrum tracking data, Orlando has surrendered the third most points on blow-bys in the league this season. Last season, they gave up the eighth most.