The Toronto Raptors only have two road games left, and both are incredibly winninable. They visit New York to face the (quite bad) Knicks in the final game of the season, and tonight, they travel to Florida to run with the (very bad!) Orlando Magic.
The Magic are tied with the Houston Rockets
in the race for the best lottery odds for the worst-record in the league, at 20-57. The Magic have lost four straight, and seven of their last nine. They’re second-last in the league in points per game, point differential, and net rating.
But of course, they beat the Raptors just four weeks ago.
Tonight, the Raptors are 10-point favourites as of this writing, which are heavy odds for a road team. I am not a betting man, but I gotta tell ya, I wouldn’t feel great about taking the Raptors in this one. I’m not saying they’ll lose of course, but winning by 10? The Raps aren’t exactly known for taking care of business against poorer competition (just 17-14 against teams with sub-.500 records) and this win — coming sandwiched between four straight home wins and a home date with Kyle Lowry on Sunday — might just be a trap game.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:00 p.m.
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal SIakam
Orlando — Franz Wagner, Chuma Okeke, R.J. Hampton, Cole Anthony, Mo Bamba
Toronto — Malachi Flynn (hamstring – out), Yuta Watanabe (quad – questionable)
Orlando — Bol Bol (foot – out), Wendell Carter Jr. (wrist – questionable), Jonathan Isaac (knee – out), JalenSuggs (ankle – out),
Hit the glass
If there’s one thing the Orlando Magic do well, it’s rebound the basketball. They haul in 73.3% of available defensive boards, good for ninth in the league. The Raptors, meanwhile, are 21st in the league, at just 71%.
Of course, where the Raptors shine is on the offensive glass; they’re second in the league in offensive rebounding rate, at 32.5%.
So who’s got the edge? Hard not to give this one to the Raptors —they’re healthy, they’re rolling, and offensive rebounding and winning the possession battle is part of their core identity. (To lean into that one: The Magic are 25th in turnover percentage; the Raptors are fourth.)
The Magic don’t have a core identity, not yet anyway. I wouldn’t worry about the glass tonight.
Avoid the trap
What I am worried about is the big showdown on Sunday — I’m worried that the Raptors are looking ahead to seeing Kyle Lowry and his first-place Miami Heat, and may not pay close enough attention to the opponent right in front of them.
It might not matter; as we saw on Wednesday, the Raptors can goof around for a quarter or two and still win easily (and that was against a good Minnesota team!).
Besides, can you blame them? This lone road game splitting up an 8-game home stand is odd enough, but having to go to Orlando and face a tanking Magic team? In the middle of a playoff race? I wouldn’t want to do that either.
Let’s hope they get serious enough to pull this one out.
Player of the month in our hearts
Jayson Tatum is going to win Eastern Conference Player of the Month honours (dude won Player of the Week three times in March, seems like a lock to me!) but damn, did Pascal Siakam have a heck of a month! He averaged 26 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal in 16 games (11 wins), on 52/43/76 shooting splits (with a true shooting percentage of .599). He had scoring games of 40, 35, 34 and 33, six double-doubles, and one triple-double.
That’s definitely good enough for Player of the Month pretty much any other time!
I’m not going to wade in the “Siakam for All-NBA” debate — there are too many good forwards for me to choose six, and that’s even before you decide whether Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic is a forward, or whether or not DeMar DeRozan is. It’s gonna be tough for him to make it.
Siakam has the numbers and has team has the results. So do the other guys. I don’t envy any voter having to make that choice!