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Leonard and Lowry have Raptors looking like contenders again

With their Game 1 wobbles behind them, the Toronto Raptors were back to looking like a team capable of reaching the NBA Finals as they dispatched the Orlando Magic 111-82 in Game 2.

Kawhi Leonard’s 37-point night (on 15-of-22 shooting) was a reminder that the Raptors have a superstar to match up with anyone in the league, but it was Kyle Lowry’s bounce-back performance that said the most about this team’s playoff ceiling. When that double act plays like they did on Tuesday night, Toronto look invincible and worthy of their 2/1 odds to win the Eastern Conference.

This was a huge moment for Lowry, who had dominated the headlines after failing to score a single point in Saturday’s loss. But he was aggressive from the start in Game 2, finishing with 22 points and seven assists.

Back to his best

“He [Lowry] was big time tonight, right?” said head coach Nick Nurse. “That is him at his finest. Tonight he was charging up the floor and pushing the ball fast, shooting, driving, kicking, making steals, hands on everything, rebounding. He was doing it all.”

“He did a great job bouncing back,” agreed Leonard, who set the tone early with 12 first quarter points despite battling foul trouble. “He’s a pro – that’s what pros do. They know it’s just one game.”

The Raptors still have areas to clean up, though, and will likely need to find their stroke from three-point range if they are going to win on the road. They romped to victory even while making just 11 of their 35 triples. The energy and effort plays have to continue.

“We understood that’s the intensity we have to be playing with if we want to win this series,” explained Pascal Siakam, who was a key factor again with 19 points and ten rebounds.

A nicely poised series

Meanwhile, the Magic can take comfort from leaving Toronto with a split and they have been dominant lately at Amway Center, with nine straight wins in their late season surge. But they will have to play far better than they did on Tuesday – their 17 turnovers and 37% shooting gave them no chance.

“I thought our decision making was terrible, especially at the beginning of the third quarter,” said head coach Steve Clifford.

“The ball was sticking. Their defense had something to do with it but I thought we got back to how we were playing in October and November offensively.”

Getting it rolling

With Leonard and Lowry finding their stride, Orlando desperately need more from Nikola Vucevic, who followed up a shaky Game 1 with a mere six points on Tuesday.

“They double-teamed me early and it was hard for me to create anything,” Vucevic admitted. “I just have to find a way to get going offensively.”

The Raptors are rolling again but Game 3 (Friday) will tell us more about their chances of a deep playoff run. Toronto have struggled historically on their travels in the postseason, and once again will need big nights from their stars.

Leonard and Lowry look ready to deliver.

About Tom Oldfield

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