After an emphatic win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors followed that up with a couple of duds against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Brooklyn Nets. Luckily, the Raptors have the Orlando Magic lined up for tonight’s game. Or is it?
The Magic are in a slump right now, losing their seventh straight game against the Cavaliers last night. They are 1-9 over their last ten games, but the way the Raptors have been playing recently, predicting a win is no sure thing.
The Nets game last night started ugly, as the team showed a lack of cohesion defensively and had borderline effort issues, if not lacking in discipline. They allowed the Nets to build an early 36-point lead, and coach Nick Nurse had to run his core players to the ground to stage a fake comeback, despite knowing that they were playing on a back-to-back.
“We got a game tomorrow to shake this off … but we suck right now” - Fred VanVleet. pic.twitter.com/GfUm20hPri— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) December 3, 2022
The Raptors are facing a young team in Orlando Magic, led by their blue-chip rookie Paolo Banchero, who’s more like a vet than a rook. Banchero’s a big problem almost everywhere on the floor, averaging 22.6 points and 3.6 assists.
It will be a battle of longbois tonight, as the Magic boast of a starting lineup similar to the Raptors, with Banchero, the Wagner brothers, and Bol Bol standing at 6’10” or taller.
Can the Raptors break out of their funk?
Where to Watch:
TSN4, 8:00 pm ET
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Thaddeus Young
Orlando – Markelle Fultz, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Bol Bol, Mo Wagner
Toronto – Otto Porter Jr. (toe – out), Precious Achiuwa (ankle – out), Justin Champagnie (G League– On Assignment)
Orlando – Wendell Carter Jr. (foot – out), Gary Harris (hamstring – out), Jonathan Isaac (knee – out), Jalen Suggs (knee – out)
Nick Nurse, Playoff Mode
These past two games weren’t coach Nick Nurse’s first rodeo when it comes to the team putting up dud games. We’ve had this a few times over the past few years, and it normally starts with a call-out or two, and if things don’t change well right away, he will go into playoff mode and play a very tight rotation, typically 6-7 players seeing time, running his core players to the ground. It’s worked well, as the Raptors were able to right the ship each time, but at what cost? We’ve seen Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet go through an assortment of wear-and-tear injuries over the past couple of years.
Is Scottie playing hurt, playing injured, or playing emo?
Another game, another wince and a grab at his lower extremities for Scottie Barnes. We haven’t seen anything like this since Vince Carter decided to tank his season with the Raptors (aka Wince Carter era), but there’s a reason for concern.
Barnes is having a subpar season based on the stats and looks even worse by the eye test. He’s had plays where he looks awkward and maybe favouring a leg, knee, or ankle. Barnes’ explosive moves to the rim are few and far between, while his missed bunnies in the paint had very little vertical pop, enough to make Tim Duncan and Jonas Valanciunas blush.
The injury reports and details coming out of the Raptors’ camp sound confusing. We would see Barnes tweak an ankle, then someone from the Raptors would say it’s a knee. Barnes would tweak something and go back to the locker room, only to return, playing with even less explosiveness and pep to his step.
So what’s the real deal with Barnes? It’s normal for players to play hurt, but what if he’s playing through an injury? If he’s playing through an injury, he shouldn’t attempt to go back in the game if he tweaks something. Even if Barnes wanted to, it’s the coaching staff’s job to protect the players from themselves. Remember when the Detroit Pistons sat Cade Cunningham at the beginning of last season to get on the right track? He pretty much missed at least two weeks; maybe that’s what Barnes needs right now. Or is Barnes not responding well to not getting the touches? He’s been relegated to be the fourth or third option with Siakam’s high usage to start the season and O.G. Anunoby’s resurgence.
Hopefully a game against the struggling Magic is exactly what Barnes, and the team, needs to shake it off.