One of the greatest moments of my life as a Raptors fan is when my wife and I travelled to Detroit to watch the Raps take on the Pistons. We almost missed an en ramp and did that terrifying thing where you change lanes way too late and you fear for everyone’s life (but mostly your own). Little did we know that it would be a pre-cursor for how the night would turn out as James Johnson nearly decapitated Andre Drummond as he banged it through his entire body and the two nearly came to blows.
Fast forward to Monday night when Jakob Poeltl drove from the top of the key and put Drummond in a Raptors branded box that was adorned with the sumptuous quote of Masai Ujiri’s “you are way better than Drummond”. The Raptors seem to embody this mantra as a collective, so it was no surprise that they made quick work of the re-tooled Pistons.
Up next, the Raps face the Magic in what feels like a game that will absolutely go one of two ways: either the Raptors will demolish the Magic, or they will lose in embarrassing fashion on the road. This game has the trappings of, well, a trap game. A late-February game where the Raptors, sitting atop the Eastern Conference mind you, do the thing that they used to do a lot more than they currently do (praise be), and play down to their opponent. It can’t be, right?
With that, let’s dive in.
Where to Watch
TSN, 7 pm
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valancuinas
Orlando - D.J Augustin (hah), Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
Toronto - None
Orlando - Aaron Gordon (hip - questionable to play Wednesday), Marreese Speights (personal), Jonathan Isaac (ankle), Terrence Ross (knee)
The Orlando Magic possess two elite Raptors killers in their lineup in Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier. I don’t know what it is, but these two guys seem to feast on the Raps every time they play. Of course, we don’t know what to expect in this match-up yet since this is the first time the Raptors are seeing the Magic this year (how, schedule making computer, how?!)
Heads up though: Fournier has averaged a tidy 18 points per game over his last six contests. And yes, he’s averaging the third most points per game over his career against the Raptors. Meanwhile, the recently returned Vucevic seems to enjoy cooking JV on the glass, so it will be up to the Raptors to gang rebound against the glass-hungry Magic and keep Fournier from heating up from beyond the arc. Let’s all say it together for the guards: “BOX OUT”.
Play Their Game
Listen, when you boil it down, there is no way that the Orlando Magic should be able to hang with the Toronto Raptors, especially if Aaron Gordon misses Wednesday’s game. Orlando just doesn’t have the firepower or depth to keep up with the, dare I say it, maybe the best Raptors team that Toronto has ever seen. Sure, Orlando started out the season strong and was the proverbial darling, but have you seen their last 30 games? This is a rhetorical question, because of course you haven’t. Why would you want to do that to yourself?
Provided the Raptors come out strong out of the gate and let their bench do what their bench has been doing all year (cook other teams to a well-done temp) then this game should be money in the bank.
Though Terry Ross didn’t have the greatest of careers in Toronto (shoutout to 51 points), the Toronto folk who will inevitably be shown on the TSN broadcast and those of us watching at home all love to see a familiar face. Since Ross is out indefinitely with a wrecked knee, we can count ourselves lucky there’s another Raps fan favourite who still plays for Orlando. That’s right: Bismack Biyombo.
Biyombo was a folk-hero that (most) Raptors fans knew wouldn’t be around for long, as the silly-summer of 2016 rewarded his playoff intensity with a 4-year, $70 million contract (yikes). Though he is playing less than 20 minutes per game (yiiiiikes) and having one of his worst defensive seasons since he was a rookie, Bismack will undoubtedly bring at least one massive smile to Raptors fans’ faces on Wednesday night.
I for one will take that smile and hopefully a big fat W with it.