The Toronto Raptors two-headed point guard monster in TJ Ford & Jose Calderon finally displayed their full potency last night as the Raptors won game 3 in front of a sellout crowd of 20,023, 108-94. Ford and Calderon went for a combined 39 points, 12 rebounds & 16 assists while committing only 4 turnovers. Since returning for a neck injury suffered in December, TJ’s role with the team has been in question as he struggled to adapt to the role of back up point guard. But last night, as a starter again, he was brilliant. He kept control on offense, worked hard on defense and when Orlando’s starting point guard Jameer Nelson picked up his 3rd foul late in the 2nd quarter, forcing coach Stan Van Gundy to use his reserve Carlos Arroyo, Ford went on a tear, ripping the Magic for 11 points in the quarter, 18 for the half and giving the Raptors a 61-40 going into the main break.
Two quick 3 pointers by Orlando’s Rashard Lewis to open the second half reduced Toronto’s lead to 15 with less than a minute gone by and Sam Mitchell called a time out to organize his team and re-assert control. The Magic continued the comeback however & despite Dwight Howard picking up 3 fouls in the quarter, they had cut the halftime deficit to 11, 80-69 after 3 periods of play.
For Orlando, their star man-superman Howard was having a frustrating game, unable to assert his dominance as he had so easily done in games 1 & 2. He still finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds, but also committed 6 turnovers and shot only 3-8 from the free throw line. Hedo Turkoglu(26 points, 7 rebounds) was keeping Orlando within striking distance but in the last quarter but back to back 3 pointers from still-hot Jason Kapono with under 5 minutes remaining effectively ended Orlando’s charge.
Sam Mitchell did make one lineup change, re-inserting Jamario Moon into the starting 5 after going with Rasho Nesterovic for the games in Orlando and the move paid off. Moon had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone, but more importantly, he gave the Raptors a spark from the start, something that had been lacking in the opening quarters previously.
This game however, was decided at the point guard position & Toronto’s duo of Ford & Calderon outclassed and outplayed Orlando’s Jameer Nelson, Carlos Arroyo and makeshift fill-in, Keyon Dooling.
Ford and Calderon played exactly 48 minutes between them and showed that there really is no ‘backup’ point guard on this team.
Game 4 goes in Toronto on Saturday where the Raptors look to square the series. Based on this performance, they will feel that this series is very much alive and up for the taking.
Knicks Morning News (2017.04.23)
3 hours ago