NBA Playoffs 2019: Winners and Losers from April 16th

NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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NBA Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Jamal Murray took over, Toronto bounced back, and the Blazers have a choke-hold on Oklahoma City. Here are Tuesday, April 16’s winners and losers from the NBA Playoffs

Winner: Toronto’s Defense

The Toronto Raptors‘ demolition of the Orlando Magic was a direct result of the Raptors’ revamped defensive efforts (compared to Game 1). Coach Nick Nurse pressured ball-screens and utilized Toronto’s immense length to limit paint touches and coerce Orlando into forced and often contested jumpers.

It also helped that the Magic saw the adrenaline of their playoff-first-timers wear off as the Jonathan Isaac corner threes and Khem Birch circus shots saw a significant dip in efficiency. Oh, and let’s not forget the disappearance of Orlando’s third-team All-NBA point guard, the key to the whole turnaround.

Toronto’s menacing frontcourt neutralized Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic and once again forced Orlando’s strikingly below-average guards to beat them. Nurse was content rolling the dice against another eruption from Isaac, D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, or Terrence Ross. He made the right call. Sometimes in this League, sticking with the gameplan even through the failures is the best avenue for success.

One-off playoff games are often whacky, and the key is to not allow your gameplan to be derailed by 48 minutes of Augustin-ism in this case. Essentially, the Raptors doubled down on their paint pressure and were satisfied with contested jumpers from Magic guards. In game one, Augustin and company knocked down tough jumpers all afternoon and hit several key shots late in the fourth quarter; namely, threes by Isaac and Augustin with under a minute to go.

Tuesday night, the field goal percentages from outside the paint fell drastically. Ross still put together a nice outing, but starting perimeter triumvirate Fournier, Isaac, and Augustin went a combined 6-26 from the field. That helps explain the dismal 82 point total on Tuesday.

Additionally, Toronto continues to overwhelm Orlando’s lone all-star, big versatile center Nikola Vucevic. He’s been held to 6-21 shooting from the field and just 17 points TOTAL over two games. That’s less than his season average PER-GAME. As the hub of a clunky Magic offense, he needs to produce and captain the paint for Orlando’s offense to run even somewhat smoothly.

With him out of the picture, coach Steve Clifford is left singing the prayers of Terrence Ross and D.J. Augustin’s perimeter imaginations. They dreamt up a win in game one but gravitated back to Earth in game two, just like Nurse and the Raptors expected.