The Toronto Raptors are finishing up a notably turbulent week. Since returning from the All-Star break, the team has won just two of five games, with injuries to Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby likely playing a role in the recent struggles. Tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic was originally scheduled for December 20th, but was postponed due to COVID ravaging the Orlando Magic’s roster to the point of not meeting the minimum number of active players needed to play.
The Magic recently saw Markelle Fultz return from a long absence, and he’s been productive in limited minutes. Overall though, Orlando has been flat-out terrible the whole season, currently sitting in dead last in the Eastern Conference. Based on record alone, one would think that Toronto may have this one in the bag, but I wouldn’t be so sure.
After ugly losses to the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks last week, it was safe to declare that this Raptors team, at least sans OG Anunoby, isn’t necessarily the most reliable squad in the NBA. Unfortunately for Toronto, it was recently reported that OG will sit out the next two weeks to rest his fractured finger, and the short-handed Raptors again succumbed to the “Dwane Casey Curse” last night, losing to the Detroit Pistons in a close game. Still, if you feel strongly that the Raptors are going to take care of business tonight against the Magic, on DraftKings, you can bet on Toronto as -8 favourites against the spread. After all, even without OG, it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if the Raptors won tonight’s game in a blowout, considering each team’s standing in the conference’s pecking order.
If the Raptors are trying to end the regular season as a top-six seed and avoid the Play-In Tournament, the margin for error is miniscule. Thankfully, Toronto recently beat the Brooklyn Nets twice in a row, but with the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers currently occupying the last couple of guaranteed playoff spots, every win counts. Toronto should be looking to gain every possible advantage in the standings, as dropping even one too many ugly games to a lowly team like the Orlando Magic may prove to be the difference in seeding come playoff time.
Let’s hope the Raptors can keep it together, and build on their recent success. Here are tonight’s game details:
Where to Watch:
TSN4, 7:30 PM EST
Toronto – Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch
Orlando – Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Mo Bamba
Toronto – Fred VanVleet (knee – questionable), OG Anunoby (finger – out), D.J. Wilson (knee – out)
Orlando – Bol Bol (foot – out), Jonathan Isaac (knee – out), Moritz Wagner (rib – out)
After battling it out against Cade Cunningham last night, Scottie Barnes will compete against two more of his fellow top draft picks in Jalen Suggs tonight, and Evan Mobley on Sunday. These matchups couldn’t be happening at a better time for Scottie, who recently caught fire and exploded with multiple high-scoring outings on impressive efficiency, culminating in Rookie of the Week honours in the Eastern Conference.
Jalen Suggs has had a rocky rookie campaign. He missed over a month with an injury late last year, and when he’s played, his efficiency hasn’t been as high as Magic fans may have hoped. Still, Suggs will surely be looking to stick it to the team that passed on him on draft night. Back in October, Jalen set out for revenge against the Raptors with a 21-point outing, and he might very well be psyched for another big night tonight.
Can you win with flynn?
Malachi Flynn has seen more time on the floor in the wake of Fred VanVleet’s absence, and his play has, for the most part, been a revelation. If the Raptors can get this elevated version of Malachi consistently, Fred’s workload will be much easier to manage in this latter half of the season. Flynn’s activity on the defensive end, coupled with sound decision-making on offense, makes for a dangerous piece to add to this Raptors squad.
At this year’s NBA Trade Deadline, some fans were lamenting that Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster didn’t go out and get a guard that can both score and create for others; well, if this version of Malachi is the real deal, then he’s potentially already equipped to do those things. Let’s hope that Flynn has finally earned some trust from Nick Nurse, and we’ll be seeing more of his newfound confidence down the stretch.
As previously mentioned, the Raptors are smack dab in the middle of a playoff race against the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. These four teams are all vying for the fifth and sixth seeds in the Eastern Conference, leaving the bottom two of these teams to participate in the precarious NBA Play-In Tournament against the ninth and tenth seeds.
Toronto has seen some periods of success over the course of the year, but with the Play-In Tournament structured as either single or double elimination depending on the seed, the Raptors are going to need to develop some consistency. Hopefully when OG Anunoby returns, the team can go on another run and avoid the Play-In altogether. Still, even if they fall short of a top-six seed and a guaranteed playoff spot, an elongated stretch of success from a healthy Raptors squad will bode well going into any type of postseason play. Let’s hope the team can get back on track tonight.