It goes down as a comfortable win. But it was far from an impressive performance.
“We set basketball back 15 years in the first half,” Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey quipped after his team defeated the Orlando Magic 105-90 at the Air Canada Centre Sunday night.
“But like I told our guys, we’re going to have a lot of games where we’re going to have to grind it out,” Casey said. “For whatever reason, we struggle in the first half and then come through, turn it on.
“But I also think that’s a little bit of growth on our part.”
After shooting a woeful 41.7 per cent from the field in the first half, the Raptors shot 12-for-14 in the third quarter to blow the game open on the way to win their second straight and fifth in six outings.
“Just coming out with a different kind of intensity,” point guard Kyle Lowry said when asked about the key to turning things around in the second half. “We’ve got to figure out a way to start the game the way we start third quarters.
“That’s how we’ve got to come out from now on.”
Lowry had 17 points in the third as the Raptors (31-25) widened a three-point halftime lead to 15.
Lowry, who was just 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, hit all five of his attempts in the third quarter. He had four from beyond the three-point arc in the period, including a 25-footer at the buzzer which brought the crowd of 17,435 to their feet.
Lowry scored the final 14 points for the Raptors in the third quarter and the first two of the fourth quarter as Toronto stretched the lead to as much as 18 points.
Toronto is six games above .500 for the first time since Feb. 24, 2010, when they were also 31-25.
Facing the struggling Magic (17-41), the Raptors were uncharacteristically sloppy, turning the ball over 24 times, which led to 25 Orlando points and allowed the visitors to keep the game close.
“We’re not that good of a team to just ease our way into the game,” Lowry said. “We’ve got to come out and play with our hard-nosed and hard-headed intensity from the start.”
Lowry scored 28 points, including four three-pointers to run his career-high mark to 134 this season.
DeMar DeRozan added 24 points for the Raptors, who had five players score in double-figures.
Amir Johnson left midway through the third quarter with what was described by Raptors personnel as a right ankle sprain. He had 12 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes before leaving.
Casey said it didn’t appear Johnson hurt it as badly as earlier in the season when he missed two games.
Tobias Harris matched Lowry’s 28 points to lead Orlando, which fell to 3-26 on the road. It was the Magic’s 15th straight loss away from home.
The Raptors led 19-14 after the first quarter; 44-41 at the half and 80-65 going into the fourth.
“You can’t put your finger on the slow starts,” DeRozan said. “Maybe we like a challenge sometimes by putting ourselves in a tough situation, so we can fight our way out.
“We have to stop that and understand that we have to come out of the gate, so we don’t make the game that hard on us.”
The Raptors visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday before returning home to host the Washington Wizards on Thursday and the Golden State Warriors next Sunday afternoon.