Vucevic finally got it going in Game 3, specifically against Ibaka. Do you anticipate Vucevic playing more minutes with the bench next game to take advantage of that matchup? How do you see this change, if implemented, impacting the Magic’s centre-centric offense?
The more minutes Nikola Vucevic gets opposite Serge Ibaka, the better for the Magic. But I don’t think Nick Nurse would allow that for very long, if at all. As long as Marc Gasol isn’t it foul trouble, he will be on the court shadowing Vucevic regardless of which unit he plays with. When Gasol is on the court, Vucevic has shot just 30.4 percent (7-for-23), committed nine turnovers and produced an offensive rating of 96.6. When Gasol is off the court, Vucevic has shot 54.5 percent (6-for-11), committed one turnover, and produced an offensive rating of 118.9. After three games, that’s no coincidence, it’s a trend.
Even when Vucevic had his burst in Game 3, much of his damage came from the three-point line and free throw line rather than one-on-one in the post. So, despite his numbers in Game 3, I’m not so convinced Vucevic has officially broken out of his slump just yet. Whether he’s playing against Gasol or the second unit, I’d like to see him establish position and produce from down low as he has all season.
Fred VanVleet has had a subpar series so far. What have the Orlando guards been doing to stifle his performance on both ends of the floor?
I honestly didn’t realize how poorly Fred VanVleet had been playing offensively until I saw some of Raptors Twitter calling for Jeremy Lin during Game 3 and then took a look at the numbers. When VanVleet is off the court, the Raptors have an offensive rating of 118.9. When VanVleet is on the court, that rating drops to 91.8. That is an alarming drop. A bulk of VanVleet’s minutes have come with Michael Carter-Williams on the court. MCW is an aggressive perimeter defender who will fight through screens and use his length to frustrate opposing point guards. And VanVleet simply isn’t making shots, shooting just 38 percent.
But to be fair to him, none of the Raptors reserves are shooting better than 40 percent in this series, so that certainly isn’t helping. Plus, VanVleet has played well on the defensive end, at times limiting Terrence Ross. If he doesn’t step it up offensively though, those tweets calling for Jeremy Lin will continue.
Has any Raptor player surprised you this series, either positively or negatively? How has this player’s unexpected output affected the Magic’s game plan, if at all?
Here is a freezing cold take exposed: when the Magic clinched a playoff spot, I was asked which team I’d most like them to play in the first round and I picked the Raptors. A big reason for that was because they had Jonathan Isaac, who I called “The Pascal Siakam Eraser.” Yeah, not so much. I’ve been blown away by how good Siakam has been in this series. After averaging 8.8 points on 34 percent shooting in the regular season, numbers that were by far his worst against any team in the league, Siakam has scored in a multitude of ways this series, whether in the post or on drives to the basket or even the occasional three.
Even when it seemed the Magic have Siakam defended well, he managed to get the shot off and connect on these somewhat awkward looking leaners off the glass. The Magic have attempted to use perimeter defenders Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross on him at times and he has simply bullied them as well, with his field goal percentage jumping from 52.2 percent when Isaac is on the floor to 64.3 percent when he is off. This has given Orlando a somewhat unexpected threat to account for and they have to do a better job of cutting off Siakam’s dribble to keep him from working his way into the paint. Prior to this series, my vote for Most Improved Player was going to D’Angelo Russell, but that has now changed. I hope that Isaac, and even to some degree Mo Bamba, can use Siakam’s progress as a model for their own development.
Once again, thanks to Mike who was kind enough to answer our questions. If you’d like to see my answers on the Orlando Pinstriped Post, check them out here.