It was a case of deja vu for the Toronto Raptors, but this time, third time lucky.
Key word: lucky.
The Raptors survived two late Orlando Magic onslaughts, in the end winning 106-103 after a session of overtime at the O2 Arena on Thursday with fans scrambling for the exits in a bid to get the last trains back home.
But when the game ended just before 23:00 GMT, the Raptors had finally shaken off a stubborn Orlando team with Kyle Lowry the main man, pacing the victors with 24 points and role player Corey Joseph efficiently adding 19 points on 9/11 shooting, off the bench.
Victor Oladipo led all scorers with 27 points for the Magic.
And it was Orlando who started the brighter in front of a sellout 18,689 London crowd. Montenegrin Nicola Vucevic helped the young Magic side take the early initiative as he hit six of Orlando’s first 13 points, handing them a three-point lead, and for the majority of the first exchanges, the Raptors were unable to assert themselves until Joseph wrestled his way to score inside at the second attempt to begin a 16-0 run that ended the first quarter with Toronto leading 31-18.
Orlando scored on their first possession of the second period to break the Raptors streak. Oladipo’s corner three was followed by sense of relief as the second pick in the 2014 NBA Draft left his shooting arm hanging as the Raptors inbounded the ball.
But with the shaky start a distant memory, the Raptors were in control of proceedings, despite an 8-0 burst by Orlando, Toronto remained calm on offence. Patrick Patterson hit an open triple before blocking what looked to be a certain baseline slam from Oladipo, then turning it to a two at the other end.
Buckets by Luis Scola and Jonas Valanciunas, cheered on by a large Lithuanian contingent inside the O2 extended Toronto’s lead to 66-54 to start the third quarter with Orlando looking all at sea, defensively.
It didn’t last though, the Magic, led by French international Evan Fournier went on a quick fire 6-0 run with Fournier scoring all six, narrowing Toronto’s advantage to 66-61. But everytime Orlando gained momentum, their counterparts found the answers to stretch their lead again. A second 6-0 spell was responded in kind by two quick scores by Lowry, which left Magic coach Scott Skiles looking frustrated on the bench.
Again led by Fournier, Orlando battled back to reduce the lead to 89-86 and a three later on by Oladipo shrunk it further to 92-91 but despite numerous attempts to land pole position, the Magic squandered it.
They did, however force the extra session when Oladipo connected on a long jumper with 32.9 seconds remaining. Unfortunately though that was as good as it got, despite more opportunities Orlando finally ran out of steam.