Raptors (30-20) at Magic (19-32): Preview

The Raptors are losing to all and sundry these days. They just ended a sub-.500 January, and threw away a win in Boston to open this month. Can they gather themselves against Orlando?

The Toronto Raptors find themselves in serious need of a victory. Their stellar season is coming apart at the seams just as also-ran squads like the Washington Wizards are finding their groove.

On Tuesday of this week, DeMar DeRozan returned to the lineup after missing games due to an ankle sprain. Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic were without arguably their best shooter, Evan Fournier. Easy home victory, right? Wrong. The Raps’ defense took the night off, and one of the NBA’s lowest scoring teams put up 114 points to escape with a victory.

Toronto visits Orlando with thoughts of vengeance on their minds – we hope. The Raptors also better be highly cognizant of the fact they are in danger of slipping into dangerous territory should the losses continue to pile up. The league is topsy-turvy at the moment. The Miami Heat have won 9 straight; the Indiana Pacers have only 2 more losses than Toronto. Guess who has more wins than the Cleveland Cavaliers in their past 10 games? The Philadelphia 76ers. Anybody can beat anybody, so the Raps better stop the sleepwalking.

3 keys to a Raptors win
  1. Get out on Nik Vucevic. The Orlando center isn’t a defender, but he can certainly shoot the lights out. Even if Jonas Valanciunas can’t help with the defensive rebounding, he still needs to be out past the arc. After all, if Vucevic hits uncontested 3-balls, there aren’t any rebounds to pull down.
  2. Attack the rim. Vucevic is no defender, and Serge Ibaka can get in foul trouble. Norman Powell will probably get a few shots blocked, but that’s the cost of doing business. (DeRozan is listed as “questionable”. I’d hold him out. Toronto is in Brooklyn on Sunday; that’s where I’d like to see him.)
  3. Make some shots. That’s not a tactic, just a plea. The Raps were in position to win a few of the tight losses which made January so miserable, but the only key shot which went down was Kyle Lowry’s against the Pelicans. Patrick Patterson hit back iron against the Celtics, while TRoss was just short against the Spurs.
Jan 29, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) controls a ball as Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) tries to defend during the second quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. The Orlando Magic won 114-113. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 29, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) controls a ball as Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) tries to defend during the second quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. The Orlando Magic won 114-113. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Conclusion & final score

Even without DeRozan, the Raps should be able to handle the Magic, but then I thought that a few days ago.

Once more into the breach, dear friends…

Raptors 109 – Magic 104

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