Turning Things Around
Stan Van Gundy flopped onto a couch, almost as if he were heavy from the realization that Raptors guards T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon had so easily ``chewed up'' his Orlando Magic.
The Magic coach just finished watching tape of Ford and Calderon combine for 39 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds in a 108-94 Toronto victory Thursday night in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.
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``That's as good as a pick-and-roll game as there is in this league, this side of Steve Nash,'' Van Gundy said. ``When you put shooters around them, that's going to cause difficulties.''
Toronto's win cut Orlando's series lead to 2-1, with Game 4 set for Saturday in Toronto.
Ford shook off a shooting slump to score 21 points Thursday, while Calderon came off the bench to provide 18.
``It's tough to beat us when our two point guards play like that,'' Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said.
Ford missed 30 games this season because of lingering arm pain after a fall Dec. 11 in Atlanta, and only returned to the starting lineup in late March after Calderon volunteered to give up his spot.
``(Thursday) was very difficult for Orlando,'' Ford said. ``We put the pressure on them right away, and Jose came in and played spectacular, making 3s and finding guys open, and we put up some big numbers. It felt pretty good.''
Calderon led the league in assist to turnover ratio this season at 5.38, and that accuracy is what sets him apart, Van Gundy said.
``The thing with Calderon that's so impressive, he and Nash are the best at delivering the ball on target so that guys never have to reach,'' Van Gundy said. ``His delivery is incredible.''
Toronto forward Jason Kapono, who has been on the receiving end of plenty of Calderon's pinpoint passes, called Toronto's backcourt pair tops in the NBA.
``They're by far the best in the league as a tandem guard combination,'' Kapono said. ``There's no other team that has that.''
Ford plays a fast-paced game, while Calderon is more measured. Calderon, a third-year Spaniard, said their dissimilar styles make it tough for opponents to adjust.
``It's more difficult for other teams,'' Calderon said. ``They've got to play two different kinds of defense because we are different.''
Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson will be tasked with trying to contain Toronto's two-headed point guard monster in Game 4.
``We have our hands full with Calderon and Ford, but the guards on this side are definitely up for the challenge,'' he said.
Nelson disputed reports that back spasms had caused him to collapse following Thursday's defeat, instead saying that team trainers encouraged him to lie on the ground when his back stiffened up.
``I wasn't like I was passed out or anything like that,'' Nelson said. ``I could have walked to the locker room if I wanted to but I sat down because my back was tight.''
Nelson, who had 42 total points in Games 1 and 2 but was held to just six points in Game 3, said he expects to be healthy in time for Game 4.
``I got a lot of fluids in me last night, and a few medicines,'' Nelson said. ``Everything is fine now. I don't think it will be a problem.''
Mindful of Nelson's sore back and the fact that Orlando center Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu all played 40-plus minutes the previous evening, Van Gundy canceled practice Friday and kept the team at the hotel, where they watched film and did a walk through in the ballroom.
The Magic buried Toronto with quick starts in Games 1 and 2, but found themselves on the receiving end Thursday as the Raptors raced to an eight-point lead after the first quarter and built a 21-point edge by the half. Controlling the tempo and keeping the crowd out of it will be key in Game 4, Howard said.
``Whoever comes out and dictates the way the game is going to be played is most likely going to win,'' Howard said. ``We did it the first two games and they did it last night.''