Raptors fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
After a worrisome showing in Game 1 of the National Basketball Association playoffs, the Toronto Raptors started the second game of their series against Orlando like a dog on a bone and never let up.
And then the team's star player inexplicably played just 33 minutes on Saturday, less than his season average. "It makes it hard for me to create anything and they do a good job taking away a lot of my strengths".
Three nights after a 104-101 upset by Orlando in Game 1, the Raptors roared back with a vengeance, controlling the game from the opening tip off, smothering the Magic on the defensive end like Saran Wrap.
"It wasn't flipping the switch, it was more being locked in on every coverage, everything we wanted to do, just being on the same page and communication", Lowry said.
Orlando, you have waited a long time for a team you could embrace - a team that is much like the beloved "Heart & Hustle" team of 20 years ago.
From deep, he has attempted 28 threes in game ones, making only FIVE of them.
Nine - Adjustment: After tinkering with dual-center lineups and other misconceived lineups in Game 1, Nurse just went to the simple solution of having Leonard and Siakam cover all the important minutes at power forward in the absence of OG Anunoby. The Raps looked more confident than they had all series to that point, and they constructed a hefty 24-point lead. The Raptors led 90-66 with one quarter left to play.
Toronto kept its proverbial foot on the Magic's throat over the final 12 minutes, holding Orlando to 1-for-9 shooting through the first five minutes. Things got heated down the stretch when Michael Carter-Williams threw an elbow to Lowry's face that almost knocked the point guard off his feet.
On Saturday, Lowry couldn't hit the side of a barn with his shot but had seven assists and only one turnover. Lowry missed his first, but made the second. Lowry himself said he "played the game the right way and missed some shots". "That's him at his finest tonight". He was charging up the floor, pushing the ball, passing, shooting, driving, kicking, made steals, hands on everything, rebounded. It still falls short of Lowry scoring 35 in Game 7 to qualify for the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals, and it's not Vince Carter's 50 points against the Sixers, but is there any doubt that Leonard can top those performances if need be?
Terrence Ross was doing his best as an offensive catalyst with 15 points in the first half, but Ross failed to score in the second half and no one picked up his slack.
So why was Game 2 so different than the curtain raiser?
In a series of sentence fragments with little expression, Leonard verbally sketched the tactical decision-tree that empowered him, and the Raptors, to maintain control of a game in which they never trailed. From the opening tip, they suffocated the Magic, not allowing Orlando to get on the board for almost five minutes of game time. "We were not the team tonight that we've been".
Toronto had certainly increased its intensity for Game 2, and it showed in the personal-foul category.
As Lowry ambled to the line, the Toronto crowd cheered in anticipation of his first point of the series.
In game twos, we see a drastic improvement, with Lowry getting to the line 34 times making 30 free throws.
Between that swarming defense, Leonard's 37 points and Lowry scoring assertively, this game literally couldn't have gone any better for the Raptors.
Toronto was shocked in Game 1 of the series, losing by three after finishing the regular season by winning seven of their last eight.