Less than 24 hours after beating the Knicks on the road, the Raptors had "every excuse in the world" to lose to the Orlando Magic on Monday night, said coach Dwane Casey.
"That's what I told them at halftime," he said.
But, as has become their habit this season, the Raptors used a strong second half to defeat the Magic 95-82, behind 18 points from Lou Williams and 17 points and eight assists from Kyle Lowry.
"I don't want to give our guys an excuse but we get in at 2 in the morning, come through Customs; we have to sit at the gate in New York forever — I don't know if they do that on purpose or what — and then we get in late, back-to-back, overtime game," Casey said.
"But in the second half we found our voice, our energy, our spirit. . . we found our defensive mojo in the second half."
Amir Johnson finished with 11 points, while Patrick Patterson chipped in with 10 for the East-leading Raptors (19-6), who played their ninth game without injured all-star DeMar DeRozan.
Tobias Harris had 18 points to top Orlando (10-17), while Ben Gordon had 16.
The victory was Toronto's 10th straight over Orlando.
It wasn't the prettiest of victories for Toronto, which needed overtime in Sunday's ugly 95-90 win over the Knicks. But on Monday the Raptors turned an eight-point deficit late in the first half to a 71-65 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
A three-pointer by Channing Frye cut Toronto's lead to just two points with 9:28 to play. But the Raptors play their best basketball in fourth quarters at the Air Canada Centre, and by the time Greivis Vasquez drained a floating jumper with six minutes to play, the Raptors were up by 14 in front of another capacity crowd of 19,800 fans.
"Energy," Patterson said, on the difference in the second half. "In that first half we couldn't use (Sunday) night as an excuse. Although guys were a little bit tired and exhausted, we had a great motivational speech in the locker-room at halftime and then guys just came out and stepped it up.
"It started off with Kyle being the leader that he is and it just carried over to everyone else."
A driving layup by Williams gave Toronto a 16-point lead — their largest of the game — with 3:54 to play. The Magic would chip away at the deficit, pulling to within 10, but that only served to fire up Lowry, who drilled a three with 1:47 to go, putting the game out of reach and securing Toronto its third straight victory.
Orlando hasn't beaten Toronto since March of 2012.
Lowry admitted the night of travel hadn't been easy.
"I wouldn't use anything as an excuse but it took us awhile to get back," Lowry said. "It's part of the league, we know we're always going to take long trips on back-to-backs, so it's all good."
DeRozan made his first appearance on the bench since he tore his groin tendon, sitting alongside the assistant coaches dressed in a light grey suit.
Orlando guard Evan Fournier played the second half with stitches in his lip after taking an errant elbow from Tyler Hansbrough in the second quarter that left him down on the floor for several minutes. A shaky Fournier was helped to the locker-room where his lip was stitched up.
The Raptors were outshot 49 per cent to 45, but outrebounded their visitors 39-36.
"Boy they made it tough on us (in the second half)," said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn. "What did we score, 30 points in the half? You're not going to win too many games that way unless they score 29."
The Raptors rallied from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull out a 104-100 home win when these two teams played on Nov. 11. Orlando had dropped 33 points on Toronto in the first quarter of that game, and Casey warned his players to beware of another quick start.
"They ambushed us here last game, they came out shooting the three, attacking our feet, running at us, they had 30 transition points in the first half," Casey said.
The Raptors led for most of the first quarter, taking a 10-point lead on a Lowry pullup jumper with 3:38 to play. The Magic fought back and dunk by Elfrid Payton cut the Raptors' lead to 28-25 going into the second.
Orlando continued its run in the second, holding Toronto without a field goal for more than six minutes. The Magic led 52-44 at halftime.
Lowry came out of the break on a mission, leading his team in scoring (eight points), boards (4) and assists (5) in a third quarter that saw Toronto outscore their visitors 27-13 to lead by six going into the fourth.
The Raptors have Tuesday off practice, then host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
"It's going to be good," Lowry said. "We'll take advantage and get our rest in, and start thinking about Brooklyn."
The Raptors follow their date with the Nets with a game in Detroit on Friday. They're back home to host the New York Knicks on Sunday then play six straight on the road — a two-week break from the ACC while the world junior hockey championships are in town.