Alright Raptors fans, it’s the time we’ve all been waiting for. The Toronto Raptors have a legitimate shot at being the proud owners of a winning streak that exceeds two games.
It’s been an extremely up and down season for the Raptors. One game they’re locking up all stars and pulling out wins in playoff type atmospheres, and the next they look like they don’t even belong on an NBA floor.
An NBA season is bound to bring those moments for every team, but the fluctuation this year has been on another level.
With a couple games back to back against the Orlando Magic starting tonight, it’s time to see if the Raptors can carry their momentum from beating half of a Los Angeles Lakers team into Florida to snatch two more wins.
Where to watch:
TSN, 7:00 pm ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Christian Koloko
Orlando Magic — Markelle Fultz, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Bol Bol, Moritz Wagner
Toronto Raptors — Precious Achiuwa (Out - Ankle), Juancho Hernangomez (Out - Ankle), Otto Porter Jr, (Out - Foot)
Orlando Magic — Wendell Carter Jr. (Out - Plantar Fascia), Gary Harris (Out - Hamstring), Jonathan Isaac (Out - Knee), Jalen Suggs (Out - Ankle), Chuma Okeke (Out - Knee)
Can Fred VanVleet shoot his way out of this?
In the famous words of one of the greatest athletes ever,
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” - Wayne Gretzky
Growing up my entire life playing basketball, one of the things that I learned from coaches is that the sign between a good shooter and a bad shooter, is the good shooter shoots another after missing 99 in a row.
Obviously it comes with a number of caveats, but the premise stays the same; if you have gone cold, the only way to get hot again is to keep shooting.
Fred VanVleet is shooting his lowest percentage from 3-point range ever this season at 33.3%, and has only shot over 50% from 3-point in a game three times this year.
I thought last game was going to be the one, and I’m sure everyone hoped it would be when he knocked down his initial shot to start the game against the Lakers, but it continued as much of the same, as he finished 3/12 from deep.
One thing VanVleet doesn’t struggle with is confidence. As an undrafted player, who has worked his way up to an All-Star, he oozes it. Which is great, but at the end of the day, the results are the only thing that matters.
Even though VanVleet has struggled historically against big teams, he has a couple of games against a weaker opponent to get himself back on track.
The attack of Bol Bol
This honestly goes two ways, offensively and defensively.
Watching Bol Bol offensively is one of the most entertaining things going in basketball. The way he cruises so effortlessly down the court, with a pretty decent handle at his height and length is a trend that we are slowly starting to see more and more. However, it’s still great to see the position he has worked himself to, after a slow start to his career playing wise, and injury wise.
Defensively, it’s definitely not a mess, but a terrible matchup against a Toronto team who often elects to play small, and has a plethora of ball handlers who can break a taller, slower defender down.
We saw in their last matchup that the game plan was “attack Bol Bol,” and even if it wasn’t, it slowly became that. If it wasn’t Pascal Siakam, it was Scottie Barnes, if it wasn’t him, O.G. Anunoby took a turn. Even Fred VanVleet had some success after he realized that a step back likely wasn’t going to work when you’re giving up well over a foot in combined height and wingspan.
When a team plays big against Toronto, the size advantage either goes to them, or the speed and mobility advantage goes to the Raptors. Sometimes both, but in a matchup against Orlando, the Raptors should have a favourable time getting to the rim, or breaking down defenders one-on-one.
Is O.G. Anunoby an All-Star?
I have a hard time believing that unless the Raptors make a big run before the voting starts, they will end up with two All-Star on the team. Some people thought with Siakam’s injury, Anunoby could represent Toronto as their lone All-Star, but Siakam has quickly quieted that noise since returning to the lineup.
However, if Toronto were to end up with an All-Star duo this season, it seems that Anunoby has emerged as the favourite candidate. I will admit, not what I was expecting, but I will say that I’ve been wrong about him.
The Toronto Raptors are 7-4 on the season when Anunoby scores 20 or more points in the game. Taking into account notable injuries throughout the season, there is a clear pattern that correlates Toronto success and O.G. success.
As I’ve mentioned multiple times in this article, Orlando is still an extremely young and growing team with quite a bit of injuries. They shouldn’t be competitive over these next two games. Especially not if Toronto wants to show themselves as a true playoff threat.
Tonight and Sunday are perfect opportunities for O.G. Anunoby to not only grow his all star candidacy, but his Defensive Player of the Year portfolio as well.
They’re going to need wins, and top-end production from Anunoby. Fortunately, those two often go hand-in-hand. But it has to start tonight. The up and down season has to stop for the Raptors to be serious playoff contenders.