Ah those were heady days, back when the Orlando Magic were 6-2 and atop the Eastern Conference. People idly wondered if maybe this, this right here, was the year they finally turned it around. And why not? They had young exciting players like Aaron Gordon (who will play tonight), Elfrid Payton (since traded) and, sure, Mario Hezonja, plus some skilled vets like former Raptors Terrence Ross (now injured) and Bismack Biyombo. Why couldn’t they put it all together?
Because there’s just something about that combination of players that just doesn’t work. It feels like it should somehow, but it doesn’t. That’s it, that’s the whole story. The Magic are the 27th ranked defense in the league, and their offense isn’t that much better, at 19th. I’m not sure how they solve these two problems — the guys running the team before Jeff Weltman took over didn’t know either — and now here we sit. The Magic are 18-42 and hopeless.
The Raptors meanwhile are exactly the opposite as a franchise. They’ve constructed their team with an eye to development, lineup combinations, the arc of the modern NBA, and everything else you can consider. They also have a pair of legitimate star players. Taken altogether, it’s why Masai Ujiri is the man, and also why we assume the Magic will eventually improve — because they got Weltman (Ujiri’s former right-hand man) to take the reins in Florida.
But that’s still years away. For now, the Raptors roll into Orlando as the best team in the East, and by most metrics, the third best team in the league. Good luck to you, Magic!
Here’s Mitch Orsatti with the full Raptors-Magic preview. And below are your updated details. Now, as always, let’s watch.
Where to Watch
TSN, 7 pm
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valancuinas
Orlando - D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
Toronto - None
Orlando - Marreese Speights (personal), Jonathan Isaac (ankle), Terrence Ross (knee)