The Toronto Raptors have prided themselves on their fourth-quarter defence all season and never before was it more evident — and more needed — than Tuesday in Orlando.
Holding the Magic to without a field goal for more than seven minutes of the final quarter, the Raptors rallied for a 93-86 victory despite subpar play for the majority of the night.
Tightening the defence with a group that included the seldom-used Lucas Nogueira and Lorenzo Brown, Toronto won going away for its ninth straight road victory to extend a franchise record.
Wednesday game preview: Toronto Raptors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Raptors take the long way to equal franchise record
Opinion | Damien Cox: Raptors woe-are-us complaints come across as convenient excuses
It was also Toronto’s 24th road win of the season to match the most in any year in franchise history.
Kyle Lowry made seven three-pointers as part of a 25-point night to lead the offence but it was a stifling fourth quarter defence that turned the game.
The Magic got only two free throws from Bismack Biyombo in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter as Toronto took control. Nogueira, Delon Wright, Brown, Lowry and Pascal Siakam simply smothered Orlando and the Raptors made just enough shots to win handily.
The Raptors played without DeMar Derozan, out with a hip and thigh contusion, and Fred VanVleet, who said out a second straight game with a sore right hand.
DeRozan missed his first game of the season — only Jakob Poeltl has a chance to play all 82 regular season games this year — and his absence created some different looks for Toronto.
Malcolm Miller, whose two-way contract could be converted to a full NBA deal in the next three weeks to make him eligible to be on the post-season roster, made is fourth start of the season and played rather insignificant minutes. And without DeRozan’s presence to take care of a big offensive load, the Raptors looked a bit out of sync without him in the lineup.
Miller was scoreless in only eight minutes and the Raptors went to Norm Powell with the rest of the starters to open the third quarter.
Powell looked more comfortable at times than he has in the last couple of weeks and knocked down a couple of shots in the second quarter to help Toronto stay in the game.
After a long stretch of lethargic play found them down 10 points late in the second quarter, the Raptors finished the half on an 11-0 run to take a 52-51 lead at the intermission.