TORONTO — Ryan Anderson prepared for a tough test as tipoff approached Monday night. He sat at his locker inside Air Canada Centre and said he wasn’t looking forward to guarding Andrea Bargnani, a talented 7-footer who can shoot from long range and put the ball on the floor.
In retrospect, the Toronto Raptors should have been as concerned about Anderson as Anderson had been about Bargnani. Anderson and his Orlando Magic teammates hit one wide-open 3-pointer after another to cruise to a 117-101 win in front of a crowd of 16,429 that had little to cheer about except free pizza.
“I had a lot of open looks,” said Anderson, who made eight of his 13 shots from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 28 points. “I think everybody did a good job finding me.”
The Raptors focused on defending All-NBA center Dwight Howard, and the tactic hurt them. When the defense collapsed onto Howard, the Magic swung the ball to open shooters on the perimeter. No one benefitted more than Anderson.
“I’m happy for him,” Howard said. “I just want him to continue all the things that he’s been doing. We all love the way he’s been playing. He just has to keep it up, and we’re going to need that same effort and energy from him every night. We know he can do it.”
Howard also found his stride, despite several rough fouls from the Raptors’ interior players. Howard scored 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and 7-of-10 shooting from the line. He also collected a game-high 10 rebounds.
Anderson’s concerns about Bargnani never materialized. Howard rotated perfectly early in the game, leaving Bargnani no room to do anything one-on-one.
Bargnani missed eight of his 11 shot attempts and scored just eight points.
The Raptors looked half-asleep at the outset, and the Magic made them pay.
Fueled by Jameer Nelson’s outside shooting and Anderson’s 3-pointers, Orlando jumped out to a 24-8 lead.
When Toronto went on a run of its own and tied the score 28-28 at the start of the second period, the Magic took control of the game.
Backup big man Glen Davis didn’t see most of the second quarter — at least not up close.
Davis left the game temporarily with 7:49 remaining before halftime after a Raptors player raked him across the scalp, opening a cut.
Fans razzed Davis as Davis grimaced. Davis had some blood on his fingertips, and as he looked at a fan, Davis extended his right middle finger, put it into his mouth and licked off the blood.
The gesture, which was caught on TV, could earn Davis a fine from the league. But Davis insisted after the game that he did not intend to make a profane gesture.
“No, I had blood on my hands,” Davis said. “It was my middle finger, so I think they thought I was flipping somebody off, but I wasn’t. I was getting blood off my finger.”
Davis received five stitches and returned for the second half.
That half wasn’t close either.
Orlando committed only nine turnovers.
With the victory, the Magic extended their winning streak to three games and won for the seventh time in their last 10 games.
Toronto, which lost for the fifth time in its last six games, has a reputation as a lax defensive team.
But the Raptors (16-34) have improved markedly under their first-year coach, Dwane Casey.
The Raptors entered Monday with the NBA’s ninth-best field-goal percentage defense and the sixth-best 3-point percentage defense.
Still, the Magic (32-18) encountered few problems.
And Casey gave some of the credit to Anderson.
“Some of it was they have a distinct, different type of ‘stretch 4’ in Anderson,” Casey said. “Ed [Davis] is not used to rotating out on a guy like that. It’s different, but it’s not like we didn’t go through it this morning a lot in shootaround.”
The rest of the Magic made seven treys, and the outcome of the game was settled early in the fourth quarter.
There were only two bits of drama left.
Would Anderson tie or surpass his career high of 30 points, set earlier this season? (He did not.)
And would the Raptors score 100 points?
That was the pressing question for Toronto fans inside the arena, because a local pizza chain gives away a free slice of pizza to anyone with a ticket stub when the Raptors score at least 100.
Ed Davis hit a turnaround hook shot as he was fouled with 2.1 seconds left, prompting the fans who remained to cheer wildly.
The cheering confused Magic coach Stan Van Gundy — until someone courtside explained the pizza promotion.
“The whole place went nuts, like they won the championship or something,” Van Gundy said. “I had no idea what was going on. Everybody’s on their feet, standing ovation and the whole thing.”
Van Gundy had reason to be confused.
As he noted, that was the loudest the crowd had been all night — even louder than when it booed ex-Raptor Hedo Turkoglu.
Anderson and his teammates had given the fans precious few reasons to cheer.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun