Raptors are onto the conference semifinals with 115-96 rout of Orlando
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, April 23, 2019 9:39PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2019 9:54PM EDT
TORONTO -- Job No. 1 done. And how.
Kyle Lowry got the Toronto Raptors going with the team's first nine points, and Kawhi Leonard finished with 27 as the Toronto Raptors throttled Orlando 115-96 on Tuesday, to dispatch the Magic in record time.
The Raptors won a playoff series in five games for the first time in franchise history, but the overriding mood in the post-game locker-room was: first box checked.
"It's one step closer to our goal," Fred VanVleet said. "It's just the first step of the journey. Obviously to get where we want to go you've got to keep winning and keep advancing."
Toronto will face Philadelphia, who clobbered Brooklyn 122-100 later Tuesday to win that series 4-1.
Pascal Siakam scored 24 points for the Raptors, who led by as many as 37 points in the dying minutes.
Lowry finished with 14 points and nine assists, Norman Powell chipped in with 11 points and Serge Ibaka finished with 10.
D.J. Augustin led Orlando with 15 points.
Lowry and the Raptors clearly had no interest in flying back to Orlando for a Game 6. Back home after a pair of victories on the Magic's Amway Center court, the five-time all-star quarterbacked a spectacular start.
"It's just about winning the game," said Lowry. "Helping the team, doing whatever we need to do to win and play hard. But it was about our team tonight. We did a great job, just everyone playing, getting better, and tonight was a good example of it."
The Magic were virtual spectators as the Raptors amassed a 24-point lead in the first quarter. The team's 19 assists on 23 made field goals in the first half was a post-season franchise record.
"I think (Lowry) is looking around and saying this is the best team he's played on, this is the best chance they've had," said Magic coach Steve Clifford. "And he's always been a winning player anyway, but I think he now knows this is his best chance so far, and he's playing at a really high level."
Orlando, which was making its first post-season appearance in seven years, missed its first 11 three-point attempts before Evan Fournier finally connected more than four minutes into the second quarter.
Toronto was keen to put its stamp on the game on the defensive end, said coach Nick Nurse. Mission accomplished.
"We were serious, we knew how hard we had to play against this team and obviously got off to a fantastic start," Nurse said.
The Raptors' offence was humming as well. Lowry and Fred VanVleet (with 10) combined for 19 assists Tuesday, as the Raptors had 34 assists to Orlando's 20.
Nurse had kind words for his starting point guard after the win.
"(Lowry) was amazing in this series," the coach said. "He was blocking out, taking charges, pushing the ball, getting into the paint, stroked just enough threes. He was, I dunno, maybe as good as I've ever seen him in this series."
By midway through the third, the Raptors led by 31. They cruised into the fourth up 99-70 in front a sold-out Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,800 fans that included Toronto rapper Drake -- putting a dent in the "Drake curse" theory.
The crowd serenaded Leonard with chants of "M-V-P!" when the Raptors star was subbed out of the game with just under eight minutes to play.
Nurse went deep into his bench the rest of the way. Orlando scored the game's final 18 points, making for a final score that didn't reflect to thorough thrashing by Toronto.
After dropping Game 1 to Orlando, the Raptors trailed by a mere five-and-a-half minutes over the final four games combined.
With big dreams of reaching the NBA Finals, the Raptors now have a precious few days of breathing room -- and one less trip to Orlando -- until the Eastern Conference semifinals begin this weekend. And with a roster rife with injuries, plus Leonard's load management, in the regular-season, they could use it.
In Toronto's most successful post-season in 2016, the Raptors needed seven games to knock off both Indiana and Miami before facing a rested LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference final.
"The guys are a little banged up, Kyle got a little banged up, obviously guys have been dealing with things all year so to be able to get it done as quickly as possible is always the goal and give yourself a couple of extra days of preparation, treatment and therapy," VanVleet said. "That was a big sticking point for us, we wanted to go out there and take care of business."
Lowry wore a splint on his right ring finger after dislocating it a couple of minutes before halftime.
"Popped out. But it's fine. I popped it back in," Lowry said with a shrug. "Got a couple days to get it back and recover."
On a big night for Toronto sports, the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the NHL playoffs with a 5-1 loss in Boston. The score was periodically flashed on the Jumbotron at Scotiabank Arena, and most of the TV screens on the concourse were dialled into the Leafs game.
Orlando upset Toronto to win the opener before the Raptors roared back to capture the next three, including a pair of victories at Orlando's Amway Center.
Lowry, who'd taken grief for scoring zero points in Game 1, could barely miss in the first quarter on Tuesday, shooting an efficient 5-for-6 from the field. The Raptors shot 63 per cent from three-point range, while Orlando missed all seven of their long-range attempt. Toronto led 35-19 to start the second.
The Magic made a run against Toronto's bench to pull to within 11 points early in the second, but it was shortlived, and the Raptors took a 67-47 advantage into the halftime break.
Toronto will host Games 1 and 2 of the next round.