TORONTO — Jose Calderon helped the Toronto Raptors a key win — by getting Andrea Bargnani involved in the game early.
Calderon had 18 assists in Toronto’s 97-86 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday, while adding nine points of his own. Bargnani scored 17.
“I thought Andrea was playing with some bounce and passion,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “Jose got him going and got him involved early. Jose is a leader. I cannot say how much I respect his game, his leadership, his heart.”
Both Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan were hot early in the game as Toronto opened up a 10-point lead after one quarter. DeRozan had 11 and of his 20 points in the opening quarter. Bargnani added nine in the opening 12 minutes and finished with 17 points. He also had five rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals for the game.
“It’s important, we need to get those guys rolling and sometimes you have to give them easy shots at the beginning to get them comfortable and feeling confident,” said Calderon. “Andrea is struggling with his shots as we all know and today he came out aggressive from the beginning.”
Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn was not so impressed with the Raptors’ fast start.
“We have to be ready,” he said. “We have to understand what coverage we are in at the start of the game, stay focused and stay in it and do it every single time. As soon as the introductions, we have to be ready to start and that’s our approach.”
Despite the fast start and an eight-point lead at the half, the Raptors trailed by two points entering the fourth quarter but pulled away to the victory. The Raptors (3-7) had a big contribution from their bench with Amir Johnson and Linas Kleiza scoring 15 and 12 points respectively.
Glen Davis and E’Twaun Moore had 16 each for Orlando (3-6). Arron Afflalo added 15 and Nikola Vucevic had 12. Davis also had 12 rebounds.
Orlando led by two points entering the fourth quarter after outscoring Toronto 28-18 in the third. Toronto came back on consecutive three-pointers by Kleiza and Johnson to take a 79-74 lead with 7:25 left to play.
“The bench stepped in,” Casey said. “I have a lot of confidence in (Johnson). He’s a veteran and knows how to play. The only thing, I was tearing my hair out, what little I have left, when he was shooting that three. But he worked all summer on his three-point shot. The first half he was a little slow but he bounced back in the second half when we needed him.”
Johnson admitted that three-pointers aren’t his speciality.
“Jose is probably the only one who would pass me the ball on the three-point line,” Johnson said. “The one thing about the shot is I didn’t hesitate, I just caught the ball. All summer I was working on that shot. As long as I catch it and shoot, it has a chance to go in.”
Bargnani hit a jumper with 4:40 left in the fourth to start a nine-point Raptors surge that gave them an 89-78 lead. After an Orlando turnover Bargnani made a jump shot and DeRozan made a dunk on a pass from Calderon.
After each team missed a shot, the Raptors came back with a three-pointer by Kleiza to lead 92-78 with 2:50 to play. The Magic overcame the Raptors’ eight-point half-time lead to creep to within one point on a three-point shot made by DeQuan Jones with 8:06 to play in the third quarter.
But the Raptors scored six of the next eight points, four by Dominic McGuire, to go up by five.
Andrew Nicholson of Mississauga. Ont., cut the lead to one again with 3:05 to play in the third when he scored on a driving jumper and made the resulting free throw. He finished with eight points.
Jameer Nelson tied the game 65-65 with a pull-up jumper from the top of the key with 1:49 to play in the quarter. After Toronto went ahead by one on a free throw by Jonas Valanciunas, Nelson made a layup and came back with a jumper to give the Magic a three-point lead. DeRozan hit a free throw with 11 seconds left make the score 69-67 for Orlando after three quarters.
“We played good defence in the third quarter,” Afflalo said. “In the first quarter, we didn’t play good defence. We started getting offensive minded again in the fourth quarter. Whenever we are an offensive minded team and we are not focused defensively we usually go down 10 or 20.”