Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic are back in town Monday night to face the Toronto Raptors who are coming off of a disappointing loss at the buzzer on Saturday. Orlando has won both of the previous meetings with the Raptors this season and is looking to complete a sweep of the season series. The HQ's Scott Campsall checks in to tell you what the Raptors need to do in order to pull out the victory and prevent a season sweep at the hands of Dwight Howard and the Magic.
But that's not the only opponent they'll face this week so first let's take a quick look at the week to come shall we?
Aaah yes, now onto the Magic.
The last time the Toronto Raptors took on the Orlando Magic rumors were swirling around their center Dwight Howard about his potential departure from the team; however a lot has changed since the last meeting between these two teams. Howard has since waived his ETO and will be a member of the Orlando Magic for at least one more season in addition to the remained if the current campaign.
Since Howard officially agreed to waive his ETO on March 15th, the Magic are just 3-2 with losses coming against the Heat and Bulls—two teams that the Magic need to be able to beat if they have any hopes of competing for a title in the near future.
At this point it is tough to say whether Howard’s short term commitment to his team has affected their play on the court given the small sample size, but one thing is clear: this team needs to win now. In light of this fact, I would expect the Magic to come out and try to take care of business early against the hometown Dinos.
Those very same Toronto Raptors will enter play tonight having put together a couple of solid games against the Bulls and Knicks. Given their history of competitive play against the Magic in recent years, this game seems like it should be a good one.
If the Raps are going to engage in another competitive contest with the Orlando Magic, here are the three things they must accomplish:
1) Complete Team Effort: With DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani both struggling to put together efficient efforts on both ends of the floor in recent games, a greater importance has been placed on the play of the rest of the Raptors.
The supporting cast has been huge over the last few games with players like Gary Forbes, James Johnson and Amir Johnson all stepping up and giving the Dinos a complete team effort that has allowed them to hang in games with more talented teams like the Bulls and Knicks. If the Raptors are going to continue this recent competitive streak, a number of supporting players are going to have to play big against the Magic.
2) Close Out On Shooters: This is always a key when you play the Orlando Magic who are the 3rd best three-point shooting team in the NBA in terms of percentage. The Magic’s entire offensive attack is centered around pounding the ball into the paint with Dwight Howard and kicking the ball out to shooters on the perimeter.
One of the reasons the Raptors played the Magic so well in their last meeting was because of their ability to get out on the Magic shooters. The Raps held them to just 32% shooting from behind the three point arc, including a 1-7 effort out of Jason Richardson and just 1-5 shooting from Ryan Anderson. If the Dinos can replicate that type of effort this time out, they should be in this game until the final buzzer.
3 ) Make Howard Work: The reality of guarding Dwight Howard is that in the end, he is going to get his one way or another. Due to his strength and size he is quite possibly the most difficult player to match up with, particularly for the Raptors. This is something that was on full display last time these two teams played each other.
Howard finished with 36 points on 16 of 20 shooting from the floor. Although the Raptors did work to put him on the line—where he was only 4 of 14—they are going to need to have to do a better job making him work for his buckets from the floor this time around. This means that the Dinos are going to need big minutes out of Aaron Gray, Amir Johnson and even Jamaal Magloire who must prevent Howard from getting deep post position. This is all much easier said than done, yet must remain an integral part of the Raptors game plan if they hope to compete with this Magic ball club.