ORLANDO, Fla. — Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey believes the next step for his team is to work on developing its identity, preferably one seeded in toughness.
He’s hoping a four-game season sweep of the Magic can serve as the first step in that mission.
After watching one of their best efforts of the season slip away the night before in an overtime loss at Miami, the Raptors fought off a late Orlando charge and got a fadeaway jumper from DeMar DeRozan at the buzzer to secure a 97-95 victory over the Magic on Thursday night.
DeRozan led Toronto with 22 points, followed by Amir Johnson’s 21 points and 10 rebounds. It was Johnson’s sixth double-double of the season.
The sweep was the Raptors’ first over Orlando since 2006-07.
“The coaches drew up a good play,” said DeRozan, who scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, missing just one of his eight shots in the final 12 minutes. “I just tried to get to my shot. Usually we run it going to my right, but that was the first time we ran it going to my left.
“I knew if I got a good shot off, I had a chance at it going in.”
Pumping his fist along with DeRozan after the shot went through, Casey said later that he got the response he was looking for from his team.
“I did, I really did,” Casey said. “Down the stretch everybody’s questioned our toughness and how tough we are. I’ve seen resolve and toughness the last couple of weeks. And for anybody who doesn’t feel like we’re in this to win it, they are totally wrong.”
It was a wild offensive night, featuring 12 lead changes, 12 players reaching double figures and several big baskets on both ends.
But for the Magic, it clearly was not the perfect way to begin the second half of their season.
They dropped their fourth game in a row and have now lost 15 of their last 17 overall. They’ve also lost eight straight games to teams with losing records.
Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Arron Afflalo added 16 points and Glen Davis had 15.
“I just think the basketball gods are against us right now,” guard J.J. Redick said. “They’ve turned their backs on us. We need to get back in their good graces. Tonight was a first step, if a loss can be a step in the right direction, because we competed the whole game.”