It is easy to accuse the Raptors of tanking the end of the 2020-21 season. When a team decides to officially rest two key players (Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam), while two more are given the night off out of — perhaps — an excess of caution (OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr.), it does suggest a certain desire for a downward trajectory. The point has been made that the Raptors are too talented to truly tank — but they’re also 22-34 with 16 games left. There’s not a ton left to play for here except lottery odds.
It’s worth mentioning too that this season has gotten downright cruel in terms of injuries. For the Orlando Magic, that’s meant an entire re-jigging of their thinking for this season. They lost their two key young pieces — Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz — and while they weren’t exactly championship-bound, it forced them even further into the tanking mindset. Off went the other established names on their roster — Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier — and hello darkness, my old friend. Orlando is now 18-37 and hard-charging for the bottom.
This does not make tonight’s contest in Tampa particularly compelling from a narrative — or even an entertainment — standpoint. The Raptors will be without most of the players that make them a solid team, but they are playing with a bit more fire as of late. It will be nice to see Fred VanVleet back on the court, and there’s something to the idea of watching Khem Birch, Malachi Flynn, and even Yuta Watanabe these days. What the Magic will do, meanwhile, is anyone’s guess, which could also be something too — who knows?
Regardless, here is the preview from this morning from John Gaudes. Below are the updated details. Now, let’s watch.
Where to Watch
TSN, 7:30 PM ET
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Paul Watson, Chris Boucher, Khem Birch
Orlando — Michael Carter-Williams, James Ennis, Gary Harris, Wendell Carter Jr., Chuma Okeke
Toronto — Kyle Lowry (rest — out), OG Anunoby (knee — out), Pascal Siakam (rest — out), Jalen Harris (hip — doubtful), Gary Trent Jr. (ankle — doubtful), DeAndre’ Bembry (hamstring — probable),
Orlando — Michael Carter-Williams (ankle — out), Mo Bamba (hip — questionable), Otto Porter Jr. (foot — out), Markelle Fultz (knee — out), Jonathan Isaac (knee — out)