Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic game preview
TV: FOX Sports Florida
Time: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Before the season, the Orlando Magic had high hopes.
The team transformed its roster, sending out several growing young players for veteran free agents all with the idea of making a push to make the playoffs after a four-year absence. The Magic believed they had enough.
For the most part, the players still say they have “enough in the room” to make a playoff push. The reality is the team is not where it wants to be.
A Orlando’s loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, Magic coach Frank Vogel joked he thought the team would be as far above the .500 mark as they are currently below the .500 mark.
At 19-32 ahead of a Friday game against the visiting Toronto Raptors, the season is slipping away. The Magic sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and are 4 1/2 game behind the final playoff position.
That is not an impossible margin to make up, but it is exceedingly difficult. And it’s made more difficult by the team’s inability to string wins together. Orlando has been unable to build any kind of positive momentum, failing to win back-to-back games since late December.
“We need to win one game and go from there,” Vogel said. “That’s it. You can’t talk about streaks when you are winning one out of every four games or whatever we have been doing since January 1. Momentum starts with one win, that’s our only focus.”
The Magic got their last win Sunday at Toronto. Orlando played well in the follow up to that game but lost a late lead and fell in overtime to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. They then struggled to complete a comeback in a loss Wednesday to the Pacers.
Orlando isn’t the only team battling inconsistency.
The Raptors still sit in third place in the Eastern Conference, but they are struggling, having lost six of their past eight games. That has coincided with an ankle injury to All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, who has missed five of the past six games, playing only in the Sunday game against Orlando.
The Raptors have suddenly found it difficult to score. Ranked second in the league in offensive rating entering Thursday’s games at 111.6 points per 100 possessions, Toronto is posting just 102.9 points per 100 possessions during the losing stretch. DeRozan’s absence and ankle injury have sapped some of the team’s offensive firepower.
DeRozan’s status for Friday was uncertain.
There is not a huge concern in Toronto about the Raptors’ ability to bounce back eventually. However, the rest of the season may prove to be a fight to the finish.
“I thought our guys battled, I loved the fight, the scrap,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said following a 109-104 loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. “We have to continue that, get everybody healthy, (get) guys off the minutes restrictions, and then we’ll go to war.”
The Raptors are trying to rebuild their own momentum for that playoff push. Something must give when they face the Magic on Friday.