So much for the first-quarter woes which doomed Toronto in the first two games of this series. Sam Mitchell's sage decision to move Jamario Moon into the starting lineup in place of the ineffective Rasho Nesterovic paid immediate dividends, as the Raptors exploded out of the gate Wednesday night, making 11 of their first 16 shots to stake a 26-13 lead. While Dwight Howard took advantage of Toronto's smaller lineup with five dunks in the first period, Toronto's improved flow on the offensive end, led by point guards T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon(right), more than compensated for the concession. By the time the buzzer sounded for halftime, the Raptors had hung 61 points on the reeling Magic -- establishing a franchise playoff record for a scoring in a half.
Moon overcame a pair of nightmarish outings in Orlando -- a scoreless performance in his playoff debut and just three points in Sunday's second game -- to carry the load for the Raptors early in Game 3. The first-year swingman grabbed 10 rebounds and scored 11 points on a transition dunk, a lay-up, a three-pointer and a pair of put-backs during the first half. Moon would defer to his teammates after the break -- but will sleep easy knowing he's snapped his postseason pox.
One plotline central to this series has been the battle of the backcourts, which proved fairly one-sided Wednesday night as Toronto's starting guards outscored their Magic counterparts by a commanding 25-0 margin during the first half. Orlando's starting backcourt didn't even get into the scorebook until Jameer Nelson canned a nine-foot jumper with 2:27 left in the fourth quarter. The Magic's struggles from beyond the arc played a large part in the backcourt's underperformance: Orlando made just 6-of-27 shots from three-point range -- a frigid 22.2 percent clip -- and all but abandoned their disciplined inside-out approach by midway through the third quarter.
The Raptors got some outstanding contributions from their bench, but Calderon's efficient work did the most to eliminate any opportunity for an Orlando comeback. The Spain native tallied 18 points and a game-high 13 assists, generating 49 points of total offense in just under 25 minutes. Calderon was most dangerous with the outcome still in question during the opening stages of the second quarter, canning his first three shot attempts from beyond the arc to help extend the Toronto advantage to 44-26.
The Raptors owe some serious propers to the red-clad, flag-waving Air Canada Centre crowd, a lively and organized assembly which maintained a high-decibel level and gave their players the best home-court advantage they could possibly expect. The atmosphere resembled a European soccer match during stretches -- somewhat appropriate given Toronto's melting-pot makeup -- with the fans singing and chanting and standing the entire time while rooting their players to victory.
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