Raptors

After Rough Bubble Start, Powell Impresses in Win Against Magic

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The first two games of the NBA restart haven’t been easy for Norman Powell. In the Toronto Raptors’ games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, Powell averaged 7.5 points, shooting 28.5% from the field. 

A matchup against the Orlando Magic — who were without impactful players Jonathan Issac and Michael Carter-Williams — was exactly what Powell needed to shake off a cold start. Head Coach Nick Nurse knew that as well. 

 “I love Norman, I think he’s been great this year,” Nurse said of the pre-COVID 19 reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week. “He’s really taken a step forward this year and one of these nights he’s going to pop a 25er off.” 

 

After playing less than five minutes in the first quarter, Powell had six points. Looking to grow his confidence, Nurse continued to involve Powell offensively. The Raptors ran a designed play for him to open the second quarter. 

“It’s really important [to stay levelheaded],” Powell said postgame. “I know the type of the player I am and I know what I’m capable of, it’s just getting the flow and feel back.”

“When you get in the flow and more games come under your belt, you’ll be able to catch the rhythm and get your control and balance back.” 

Powell finished the game with 14 points — third on the team in scoring behind Fred VanVleet’s 21 and Pascal Siakam’s 15 — as the Raptors collectively dominated the Magic 109-99. Toronto improves to 3-0 in the bubble and 49-18 on the season overall. 

Defensively, the Raptors stayed compact. Led by Marc Gasol, the team never allowed Orlando’s offensive threats Nikola Vucevic (12 points) and Evan Fournier (15 points) to heat up.

“Marc does a great job of using his body, being big and leading the defense,” Powell said of the former Defensive Player of the Year. “He’s a big body down there, it’s really hard for guys to score over him.” No Magic player scored more than 15 points.

For the Raptors, it was guard play that impressed again. Aside from Powell, VanVleet followed up a 36-point performance against the Heat with a 21-point double-double, and Kyle Lowry almost squeezed out a triple-double. 

“It’s just a rhythm and a flow and everyone locked in and keyed in to the gameplan,” VanVleet said of the Raptors performance out of the gates.  “[As long as] your mind’s focused on the game, you can get in a flow defensively, but just as well you can get out of a flow.”

“We kinda did a little bit of both, starting strong, had a drop-off and got back to it late.”

A dominant start saw the Raptors up 20 at halftime, but a re-energized Magic team cut the deficit in half by the end of the third. 

“We obviously weren’t as energetic in the second half, but I was super impressed with the first half, man.” Nurse said postgame. “I ain’t trippin’ about the second half.”

The Raptors, outscored by ten in the second half, did just enough defensively to keep the Magic at bay.

After a day off Thursday, the Raptors will need some of that first half energy as they face the Boston Celtics Friday night, looking to even the season series at 2-2. A similar performance from Powell would be crucial to lead the bench unit in what will surely be a tough game. 

Follow us on Twitter @RaptorsLead for the latest Lakers news and insight.

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About Sasha Podzorov

Sasha Podzorov is a journalism student at Stony Brook University where he broadcasts volleyball, soccer and lacrosse games. He is a huge basketball and soccer fan, and a Top Gear and Jeopardy enthusiast. Connect with him on Twitter @sasha_podzorov

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