It’s the final home game before a daunting trip out west and an opportunity to pick up a fourth win in five games.
On Thursday afternoon, the Toronto Raptors will fly to Denver for a Friday game (following Thursday night’s ALl-Star announcements – fingers crossed) before playing in Portland, Utah, Sacramento and Los Angeles (Clippers). If you look at that schedule and think doom, there is at least the minor benefit of having just one back-to-back on the trip. With the Kings and Jazz in there, I’d guess the team is looking at 2-3 as a worst-case scenario and anything 3-2 or better as a successful trip.
But there’s a game to play before they depart, as the Raptors first host the Orlando Magic on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on TSN2.
The Magic are 12-34, the second-worst record in the entire NBA, which should be all the preface you need for this one but let’s break it down anyway.
From all reports, it seems highly unlikely the Magic center will play on Wednesday. He’s been out for nearly a month with a concussion – his second in one calendar year, scary stuff – and while he traveled with the team on their current three-game trip he has reportedly not gone beyond light shooting.
If you’re wondering why the breakdown leads with Vucevic news, it’s because the Magic are 2-16 without my second favorite Swiss athlete (I see you, Antonio Cesaro). Per theScore, here are some relevant numbers for the Magic with and without Vucevic (not including Tuesday’s game, when the Detroit Pistons spanked them 103-87 and out-rebounded them 56-40):
|Vucevic Impact||Magic with Vucevic||Magic without Vucevic|
|% of shots within five feet||32.2%||30.9%|
|FG% within five feet||57.8%||55.4%|
So the Magic are bad with the fantasy-stud and downright atrocious without him. If he can’t go, and it seems like he won’t, the Raptors shouldn’t have much trouble on the glass at all.
Raptors Practice Notes
This won’t be a regular part of gameday posts but since I was at practice yesterday, why not?
*DeMar DeRozan seems questionable at best. Dwane Casey seemed to be legitimately unsure of whether or not DeRozan would be able to play, though the team did indicate he’ll join the team on their road trip (that might seem obvious but they would likely forego that plan if he wasn’t expected to play, as flying can cause additional swelling).
*Tyler Hansbrough is once again a game-time decision. Because it’s a bone bruise, it’s a matter of pain management and tolerance. He looked fine-ish at practice but I would have said the exact same thing two weeks ago when I was there. Hansbrough had only missed one game over the past two seasons before this injury, so I doubt if he’s just being a baby about it. It seems instead that it’s probably just as frustrating for him as it is the team.
*I asked Casey a way-too-specific question about potentially using more two-point guard looks, specifically against the Magic since they run out Jameer Nelson-Victor Oladipo looks quite often, and he basically said yes, you can expect to see it some tonight. Greivis Vasquez-Kyle Lowry lineups have been surprisingly effective on the defensive end this season – while it’s a small sample, Vasquez had the same results in Sacramento with Isaiah Thomas and in New Orleans with Jarrett Jack, so maybe it’s not as risky a defensive ploy as it sounds.
*Coaches All-Star votes were due earlier this week and the rosters will be announced Thursday night at 7 p.m. Not even the team will find out ahead of time because the league worries about leaks. While there was a lot of beat writer discussion about the case of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan, there wasn’t much chatter about it once the gym doors opened up.
*Lowry comes off incredibly intelligent in interviews. The way he broke down Monday’s final play, the psychology of defending in that situation, how he went through his options on the break, it was all very interesting and very smart.
*Chuck Hayes’ calves are the size of Zarar.
Entering the season, hopes were obviously high for Victor Oladipo. Can you give me a high-level analysis of his rookie season so far and where you see his ceiling? More specifically, has his defense lived up to the lofty expectations set at Indiana?
Oladipo has a lot of Dwyane Wade in him. The weak-side blocks. The attacks to the rim. The hard falls. According to Kevin Pelton’s SCHOENE projection system, Wade is Oladipo’s closest player comp, so the eyes and numbers agree. Is that Oladipo’s ceiling? Honestly, I’m not sure. But he has star potential without a doubt.
A question that’s been brought up in RR comments before: Would you, as a Magic fan, deal Arron Afflalo for DeMar DeRozan?
No. Granted, their numbers this season are eerily similar and both are in the running for an All-Star bid. DeRozan is averaging 22-5-4. Afflalo is averaging 20-4-4. Defensively, they’re a wash. But Afflalo has been much more efficient and he has a more favorable contract ($7.5 million) than DeRozan ($9.5 million). Between the two, Afflalo gives you better value.
The Magic are hurting (which was kind of the plan) and are 2-16 without Nikola Vucevic. What’s something this team does well, however, something the Raptors should watch out for at either end?
There’s not much the Magic do well. The only positive spin I can give is that they’re a fun team to watch. Between Victor Oladipo potentially having the Block of the Year, Glen Davis chucking up YOLO 3s, and Jameer Nelson whipping out the “Big Balls Dance” in a game, Orlando isn’t lacking for entertainment.
Vegas says: Raptors -10.5, over/under 197. The action isn’t clear yet, probably because the Magic played last night and the line is only up in a few places. The status of Vucevic, DeRozan and Hansbrough hang over the game, too, so you may not see a firm line until this afternoon.
Hollinger says: Raptors -13.5
Taking Back Sunday says: Yes, say yes, say yes, say yes, say yes
Blake says: This has to be a win, even if DeRozan can’t go. There’s simply no excuse not to take care of one of the league’s worst teams on the second night of a travel back-to-back, when you’re at home and rested. The focus should be high coming off of a big win and with a daunting trip coming up, and there’s little the Magic do very well. They have good players but beyond chasing Afflalo off the 3-point line and being cognizant of the mess Oladipo can cause if the game gets sloppy, there’s little to say beyond “you’re the better team, and it isn’t even close.” A loss here would be incredibly disappointing.
UPDATE: Tyler Hansbrough and Nikola Vucevic are IN:
#Magic C Nik Vucevic, out the past 12 games with a concussion, will start tonight, but play limited minutes.
— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) January 29, 2014
Tyler Hansbrough on active list for #Raptors tonight. And it’s not even game time yet!
— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) January 29, 2014