TORONTO — After digging themselves into a couple of enormous holes in two ugly losses on the road, the Toronto Raptors gathered before tipoff Saturday to talk about getting out to a better start.
O.G. Anunoby tied his season high with 32 points and the Raptors led virtually from tipoff en route to a 121-108 rout of the Orlando Magic on Saturday.
"We just wanted to regroup, be better. It was a bad feeling in the locker room," said Scottie Barnes, who had 17 points and a season-high 14 rebounds.
Pascal Siakam finished with 26 points and 10 assists, and Fred VanVleet finished with 13 points and seven assists, as the Raptors (12-11) sent the Magic — the league's worst team at 5-19 — to their eighth consecutive loss.
Former Raptor Terrence Ross and seven-foot-two centre Bol Bol, who ran the length of the floor for an impressive one-handed dunk, scored 18 points apiece to lead the Magic.
The Raptors were back from a disastrous two-game road trip that VanVleet had summed up simply with: "We suck right now." They dug themselves an early 36-point hole in their 114-105 loss Friday in Brooklyn. It was a similar story two nights earlier in a 126-108 blowout loss at New Orleans.
Coach Nick Nurse was relieved to see his team turn the tide on Saturday.
"We talked about it before the game … we were talking about being a little more ready," Nurse said. "We also addressed that maybe our offence needs to maybe get the ball moving a little bit more, and I thought we really did that tonight. All night long. It just obviously created a lot better shots and a lot more cuts to the basket and things like that."
The Raptors scored on eight of their first 10 shots to take an early 11-point lead, and shot a sizzling 71.4 per cent in the first quarter. Barnes' turnaround shot with 1.8 seconds left in the frame sent them into the second with a 36-22 lead.
"That was probably the biggest emphasis tonight, just getting off to a good start," Anunoby said. "Just playing hard from the start."
The Raptors stretched their lead to 17 points early in the second and headed into halftime up 64-48.
Early in the third quarter, Anunoby attempted a 360 dunk but was caught by Bol.
"He turned too slow on that," Nurse said laughing. "Speed rate on the circle has got to be a little quicker."
It was the only blip on yet another excellent night for Anunoby, who moments later snatched the ball off Moritz Wagner and finished with a running dunk that capped a 25-8 run and gave Toronto a 33-point lead. The Raptors led 94-73 with one quarter left.
"O.G. had a great game, looked up in the first or second quarter, he had like 16 early," Barnes said. "He was doing what he do, getting to the rim, getting to the line, making shots. He was doing amazing today."
Ross, who was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field, including four three-pointers, scored from long range with 5:42 to play to pull the Magic to within 17 points. But that's as close as the visitors would come, and Nurse subbed out his starters moments later.
The Magic have been hit by injuries, and were missing top rebounder Wendell Carter Jr., point guard Jalen Suggs and Mo Bamba on Saturday.
The Raptors have won or tied the season series against Orlando for the past 10 seasons, and have now won nine of their last 11 home games against Orlando dating back to March of 2017 … Magic rookie and Canadian Caleb Houstan was recognized with a brief video tribute. The forward from Mississauga, Ont., who was drafted 32nd overall, had eight points in 24 minutes.
HOME SWEET HOME
Saturday began a stretch of nine of 14 games at home for the Raptors, where they are 9-2 this season.
The Raptors host the conference-leading Boston Celtics on Monday and LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2022.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press