The Raptors might be down 0-2 after Tuesday night's tough loss in Orlando, but they have reason to be optimistic as the series shifts north of the border.
First, they have shown patience and a little bit of mental toughness in fighting back both games after falling behind big early.
Second, Chris Bosh finally got some help (Jose Calderon, Jason Kapono, Carlos Delfino) in Game 2.
Third, Toronto coach Sam Mitchell's decision to go to a small lineup with another shooter (Kapono and/or Delfino) instead of Rasho Nesterovic helped his team regain some of its offensive flow. Even Magic coach Stan Van Gundy admitted after the game that it had caused his team matchup problems.
Look for Mitchell to make lineup changes in Game 3, with Nesterovic and T.J. Ford both likely to start on the bench (or go there soon after the opening tip).
It probably still won't be enough against Dwight Howard & Co., but the Raptors can't be counted out just yet. Can't say enough about Howard, who became the first player since Nate Thurmond in 1969 to go 20/20 in consecutive playoff games. But how about the play of little Jameer Nelson? He silenced the critics again with an 18-point, six-rebound effort. His back-to-back three-pointers in the third were big, and he defended well most of the time. Over the first two games he's averaging 21 points and five assists while keeping those silly turnovers to a minimum. Bosh might have been held to two points and zero field goals in the fourth quarter (including that missed 19-footer at the end that could have won it), but the 6-foot-10 forward had to have been gassed. He not only had 29 points and 10 boards, but he defended the bigger Howard most of the game after the Raptors went to the small lineup. It's almost painful to watch the slender lefty have to work so hard for everything, while Howard can use his bulk to get easy shots The Raptors might have hope, but the Magic are still in control of this series. With Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, they will have a huge size advantage if Toronto insists on playing small. They should be able to pound it inside and clean up on the backboards. Also, Orlando's three-point shooting has pretty much dried up after that red-hot start in Game 1. Lewis, in particular, is due to get untracked after having hit on just three-of-18 from downtown over the first two games.
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