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DeMar DeRozan's clutch-tour-de-force performance in the Toronto Raptors' (16-27) 97-95 win over the Orlando Magic wasn't exactly a full, 48-minute, thorough effort. It was, however, a case of coming through when it mattered, nailing a game-winning prayer of a buzzer beater, thriving in precisely the same type of situation he's been largely invisible in of late.
His game winner not only salvaged what had been an inconsistent effort against the lowly Magic (a team who the Raps owned this year), but it also helped the team narrowly avoid what would have been their fourth OT frame in the past five games, each of which had resulted in losses.
The game-closing jumper, the club's first buzzer beater since 2006 according to ESPN Stats & Info, was the cherry on top of a red hot fourth quarter sundae for DeRozan. Fourteen of his team-high 22 points came in the last 12 minutes, only requiring seven shots to achieve (6-7). In a final frame that saw Orlando surge back after trailing for much of the night, DeRozan's contributions accounted for all but eight of his team's points. The standout quarter and the buzzer beater, which came from just inside the three-point line, hopefully offered a jolt for the slumping two-guard that will help him return to what had been a career-best scoring pace.
Amir Guts Out Another One
Amir Johnson is not physically right. That opening line doesn't appear as though it belongs within "The Good" and, given the contemporary frame of mind as it pertains to "playing through the pain", maybe it doesn't. Still, as anxious as Raptor fans may have been watching their most important big man hobble through another strong performance (21 points, 10 rebounds) on damaged ankles, you have to hand it to Johnson for his umpteenth gritty, determined outing.
Ross' Rookie Lapse
I try not to harp on rookie miscues, considering their status as a necessary step in NBA development. But Terrence Ross' defensive boner, given its magnitude and level of stupidity, deserves mention. Nursing a four-point lead with [remaining time], Ross lost his man (Magic sharpshooter JJ Redick), then compounded things by overplaying Redick's trey attempt. The result? A four-point play that appeared, at the time, to signal another gut punch loss on the horizon.
The Trey Battle
The ironic thing about DeRozan's winning shot was that the Raptors had managed to miss an awful lot of better looks before then. The team would not have needed late heroics if not for their 4-16 (25%) shooting from beyond the arc. Orlando had four more made threes on just two more attempts (44.4%) on the night.
- The Magic, who probably aren't too broken up about not seeing the Raptors again this season after going 0-4 against them, have now lost their last eight games against losing teams ... and yet they own a win against the Heat this year. Go figure!
- Oh yeah, the buzzer beater.
For the second time this season, the Raptors make a rare Saturday night appearance at the ACC against the Cleveland Cavaliers (7:00pm, TSN). The only other meeting between the teams this season saw Toronto win 113-99, just their second road triumph in 16 tries.
Prediction: Raptors 101, Cavs 95 (30-8 this season)