Oh, oh, oh. It’s the Orlando Magic, never believe it’s not so. Pilot (or Selena Gomez, depending on your preferred version of this tune) reference aside, it’s another Raptors-Magic game for you. For those keeping track, these two teams met just over a week ago.
Fresh off two Atlantic Division victories at home, the Toronto Raptors head south to Orlando for the first time this season. They do however look to continue beating the Magic: a win would make for seven consecutive victories, dating back to, well, that weird Game 1 playoff loss at the hands of D.J. Augustin. Again, for those keeping track, the Raptors and Magic have played twice before this season, with Toronto defeating the Magic 104-95 on Oct. 28 and 113-97 on Nov. 20. The arc of the regular season is long, but it bends towards outcomes like this.
In any case, the Raps will look to move to 8-2 without Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, and, while momentum is not exactly a thing, they tied a franchise record with 21 made threes against New York on Wednesday. So I say they should keep shooting.
Here are the details for tonight’s game as we have them right now.
Where to Watch
Sportsnet and Sportsnet One, 7:00 PM
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Orlando — Markelle Fultz, Evan Fournier, Wes Iwundu, Jonathan Isaac, Khem Birch
Toronto — Matt Thomas (finger) - out, Stanley Johnson (groin) - out, Serge Ibaka (ankle) - doubtful, Kyle Lowry (thumb) - out, Patrick McCaw (knee) - out, Dewan Hernandez (thumb) - out
Orlando — Nikola Vucevic (ankle) - out, Aaron Gordon (ankle) - doubtful, Michael Carter-Williams (hip) - out
(Don’t) Make Magic Happen
Sometimes the headers make sense, sometimes there is a string of words writers want to use. The Raptors have been locking down superstars left and right—here’s me getting my chance to talk about Joel Embiid not scoring—and the Magic don’t really have that guy. Evan Fournier has lit up the Raptors in the past, and he technically is the team’s leading scorer with an average of 18.4 points per game. But you don’t exactly game plan around the idea of stopping Fournier, to be honest.
The hope for the Magic is, of course, tied up in the skills and growth of Jonathan Isaac, who is currently still figuring things out to the tune of 13.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and at least one uber-athletic play per game. And with both Vucevic and Gordon out — the latter of whom is listed as doubtful, so we’ll skew conservative — it’ll fall to Isaac to step up in a big way. Fortunately the Raptors have Siakam to meet him, which will likely continue to be a fun battle in and of itself. (And if all else fails for the Magic, there’s always Augustin lurking. Look out!)
The team defense I mentioned already has been good for the Raptors, but I’m more interested here in Orlando’s. While he’s shown some offensive chops so far this season, Isaac is also the kind of guy who can hang with the likes of Spicy P defensively. On top of that, Isaac had a great game nine days ago, putting up 16 points and 13 rebounds while making Siakam work for his 7-of-18 shooting from the field. The Raptors have depth now in places that the Magic do not, and making Isaac work hard on both sides of the floor could be a key to this one.
Side note: without Vucevic, there will be no Marc Gasol sonning another talented centre on the defensive end. It remains to be seen how exactly he’ll figure into this one, given the Magic’s other big men who do not hew as close to the traditional mode of the centre. Still, Gasol’s work on Vucevic is almost exclusively why I watch Raptors-Magic games these days, aside from the Siakam-Isaac thing, how fun the Raptors are, and the next header here.
Montreal, represent! The biggest reason to watch this one is the CanCon. Khem Birch has started for the Magic in Vucevic’s absence, which is awesome. Chris Boucher, too, is awesome, fresh off a 13 point, 12 rebound, and 4 assist night against the Knicks. Birch is a quieter presence, but with his almost 30 minutes a game in Vucevic’s absence, he’s a high-energy guy. He’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch. This game might not be, but if you look closely, there’s some fun stuff ahead for us tonight.