TORONTO â€” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey didn’t want to talk about Toronto’s explosive offence. Every time it was brought up, he’d change the subject. At one point, exasperated by a reporter’s question about one of his player’s scoring, Casey slapped his hand on the podium.
“Fine, offensively, he was fine,” said Casey, again turning the conversation to the Raptors’ defensive failings. “Our attention to detail was not what it should be.”
It was a theme throughout Casey’s post-game news conference. Even though DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 36 points in a 131-112 rout of the Orlando Magic on Monday night for the Raptors’ sixth win in a row, Casey was still not impressed.
“We’ll take the win, but we can’t be happy with our defensive performance,” said Casey. “We have bigger goals in mind and if we intend on achieving them, then we’ve got to have a better mindset then we had tonight.
“We scored what, 60 per cent? 59 per cent from the field? Offence is not the problem. It’s the defensive side that we did not have a focus on tonight.”
DeRozan, who was instrumental in the Raptors’ 73-point first half, their best of the season, knew that Casey was right.
“We can’t get comfortable because we won a few games,” said DeRozan. “Even tonight we could have played a lot better. We gave up too many points. We still have to stay focused on the defensive end and let that win us games and not have to rely on scoring 130 points.”
Cory Joseph had a double-double with 15 points and 13 assists for Toronto (45-29). Norman Powell’s shooting was lethal for the Raptors, getting 16 points including four three-pointers.
It was a rude homecoming for guard Terrence Ross, who had 17 points for Orlando (27-47). Point guard Elfrid Payton led the Magic with 22 points and nine assists. Ross was drafted by the Raptors eighth overall in 2012. He was traded to the Magic on Feb. 14 with a 2017 first-round pick in exchange for veteran forward Serge Ibaka.
When asked about Joseph’s career-high assists, Casey flipped the conversation back to defence.
“Offensively, not a problem. We did OK offensively,” said Casey. “All I saw was Elfrid Payton sashaying to the rim, getting to the basket, that was my major concern.”
Ross received a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd of 19,800 at Air Canada Centre after a video package of his time in Toronto was played during the first TV timeout. The tribute included some of his biggest slam dunks, including his performance that won the NBA’s Slam Dunk Competition in 2012.
“I’m going to tell them to email it to me,” said Ross. “It was nice. I didn’t think people would respond the way they did so it made me feel like I was back at home.”
The Raptors had a slim 35-34 lead at the end of the first, but Powell’s sharp shooting helped Toronto pull away by as much as 18 points in the second quarter with a 73-57 lead by halftime. Powell was 4 for 6 on field goals, including 3 for 3 from beyond the arc, in the second. He scored 13 points in that quarter alone.
The Raptors shot 59 per cent on the night, including 10-of-15 three-point attempts.
Despite the impressive shooting, Powell agreed with his coach’s assessment that the Raptors would struggle in the post-season without better defence.
“We know that (a playoff run) is going to start on the defensive end, so we have to lock in on that end first whether we are hitting shots or missing shots,” said Powell. “Whatever it is, the defensive mentality has to become the first thing we do coming into games.”
Notes: Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll missed his second consecutive game with a sore back. He suffered the injury after a bad fall in Thursday’s 101-84 win in Miami. … Casey said Monday morning that all-star point guard Kyle Lowry continues to progress from wrist surgery four weeks ago but had no timeline for his return.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press