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.

Nikola Vucevic
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
O-Rating 99.1 98.2
D-Rating 103.7 104.8
OReb% 23.4% 19.5%
DReb% 77.2% 74.6%
% 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.

Q and A
To help set the stage I emailed with Eddy Rivera of the always-excellent MagicBasketball.net:

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.

The Lines
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:

  • truuth

    lol what kind of pussy get’s a concussion playing basketball. A european one that’s who.

    • BlakeMurphy

      Last four players I can find missing time for concussion: Steph Curry, Avery Bradley, Kirk Hinrich, George Hill.

      • tweed8

        Let’s not forget Harden, after taking an elbow from a guy who calls himself “…Word Peace”.

      • mike, prague

        Yeah, obvious pussies …

  • truuth

    eddy rivera? isn’t that the idiot who thought dwight was going to stay on the magic a couple seasons ago, two teams later I’m still laughing at this hack.

    • BlakeMurphy

      I don’t really remember but even if so, meh, glass houses and all…seem to remember some thought Bosh would stay here, too.

  • One relaxed fella

    I was about to write that Vucevic is not Swiss. Googled it and apparently I was wrong, although he plays for Montenegro national team. This is a very winnable game (fingers crossed it won’t turn out to be another game like vs. Celtics or Lakers). It would be nice to get the W before the 5 game road trip against Western conference teams. Actually Raps will have 6 games against Western conference teams in a row… man oh man, do the Raptors need DeMar back.

  • Joshua Chan Zuo Sze

    it got me taking back sunday to post a comment here. awesome band.

  • Copywryter

    That image of Olapido and four empty chairs is apt and awesome.

    • mike, prague

      The only starter of five worth building around…
      maybe Afflalo too…

  • jacobdr4

    Denver and portland is back-to-back friday and saturday night.

    • BlakeMurphy

      Right, thanks.

  • raptorstand

    The new thing with the tankers and elitists so called fans of this club is to call anyone that openly cheers for the players and the team to call them “homers” as in they arnt to bright something akin to “Gomers” I have watched a lot of basketball by this team and finally am getting to enjoy some basketball by our young team that is above average. Solid d and young guys learning and having games of their lives, and for that I get called a gomer homer. I am so sick of the tank troll contingent of this fan base ,if you got nothing good to say, just don’t say it. I just a tanker a fing loser. The truth.

    • raptorstand

      The last line should read, I call a tanker a fing loser. Just the Truth.

      • truth be told

        And I call puck heads who think they know ball wack.

        • raptorstand

          I don’t know shit about basketball and neither do you. But I want the Raptors to win everytime they walk on the floor. Do you ?

    • Copywryter

      I’ll be fan any way I choose, thanks. I feel that aspiring to mediocrity will doom this ball club. I’ve had similar conversations for years with the various pro-Bargs, pro ‘young gunz’, JV-is-Jesus, ‘Rudy Gay will put us over the top’ contingents – all of whom argued that the club was ‘young’ (at one point the youngest in the league), full of talent, still learning and gelling and so on. They were quite wrong.

      I simply don’t share your perspective. If that makes me a tank troll then fine, but the Colangelo approach of adding new parts to a jalopy didn’t work and the proof is in the pudding.

      If you’re happy with a pretty good club then good for you. I want more and I don’t think this assemblage of bodies will get us there.

      • raptorstand

        So why don’t you go watch the Miami Heat ? Its so easy to be negative , by being negative you have all the answers, no matter what anyone says you get to stick the knife in and twist it. This team is full of talent, this team is still learning and the players are gelling , and we are not wrong. That’s the truth. We all knew that Bargs wasn’t it , but we cheered for him to do good, Once Rudy ball was introduced for twenty games we knew there was nothing there, but we cheered for themto do well. I have a feeling we have something here , and yes its early and yes they are young, but when our defense is rated this high and young players are emerging I can see good things for us, championships?? I don’t know , maybe , but this team isn’t the team of the last ten years, it feels different , one I hope all tankers can get behind , and jump on the band wagon without breaking their ankles.

        • truth be told

          You don’t know what the truth is. You have an opinion that you’ve deemed the truth.

          And if fans don’t agree with this truth you take issue with it.

          Hope you will be around the site long enough so you can continue to defend your claims.

          Or will you be like Cesco and dissappear when your agenda has done the same.

          • raptorstand

            Everthing you say to me right back at you. Your truth is you want the team to lose every night so we can get a good draft pick. Ever since I have come on here I have been run down by the so called no it alls. We have a team this year, enjoy it. I have no agenda ,I want the team to win, I will be here for along time. Tanker.

            • truth be told

              You don’t know my truth. I’m actually a ball fan. Not just a pseudo Raptor fan

      • raptorstand

        To tell you the truth Copywryter have you watched the team since we traded Rudy Gay because your post feels like two months ago , Watch a game brother maybe you can pull your head long enough to check out the new contingent of players . We all want championships just for the asking give me your method on how we achieve championnship status aain by trading all of our talent and losing every game so we can draft some elite young talent that wins us the championship the next year. I need a chuckle .

        • Copywryter

          Like I said, you don’t own being a fan simply because you’re positive. In my opinion you’re a fairweather fan because eventually the tide ebbs and you vanish. Trust me I’ve seen it here for years. I’m not being negative, I’m just not letting my affection for the team cloud my judgement of it. The team is playing well right now, for sure.The bounce post-Gay has lasted much longer than I thought it would. I hope it continues, I’m not convinced we have the talent.

          But I’ll be your huckleberry for this pointless championship conversation:

          Name the teams that have won a championship without an elite player.

          Name me a team that has won a championship without an elite player that it drafted.

          Name me an elite player on the Toronto Raptors.

          I don’t think I own the truth like you do, I look at history and see where the trends and formulas are.

          And I do watch the Miami Heat, and the Timberwolves and GSW. Any team that plays good or even interesting basketball gets a place in my rotation.

          • raptorstand

            This elitist thing is boring, you don’t know me , I have just got on this site. I have watched every game by this team for the last 5 years. You still didn’t tell me how we should go about getting this championship team. I don’t know man our 22 year old just went off for 51, maybe the kid can become great. The thing is , is it so impossible for our good young players to become great players in this league? is it only other teams that develop players? The best basketball in 10 years and all you do is crap all over anyone that sees good.. I aint goin nowhere my friend , good times bad times, lets enjoy some good times without the snarkey attitude.

            • truth be told

              Should have been watching every game for the last 7 years.

              Then you might understand the concerns.

              • raptorstand

                Ive been a fan from the start of this franchise . I understand we have watched a lot of shitty ass basketball. Loss after fing loss. Finally we have a team that can walk on the court with out tripping over their shoelaces, and can compete with the best teams in the league and there are still writers and fans that wont enjoy it. Negative Nancies Downer Debbies. Such a joke.

          • GetLicks

            Fact: there are currently about 7-8 teams behind the Raptors in the standings, who have ‘elite’ (by NBA standards) players on their rosters. Some of those teams are complete disasters.

            Let me ask you this: which player in the upcoming draft would you consider to be a guaranteed elite NBA player? And what if the top 2 prospect decide to stay in college for another year? If you’re the GM of the raptors, and you decide to tank only to have the 2 highest rated prospects stay in school, you look quite foolish. Not to mention a ton of heat from the fans who didn’t want to tank this year.

            • truth be told

              How do you know all this?

              No one has other than Exum has declared so don’t act like you know what’s going to happen draft wise.

              In a few years from now when you’re still trying to roll Derozan out as a franchise player who will take you to the promised lands, I hope we will be able to revisit these conversations.

              • GetLicks

                This confirms my belief that most pro-tankers don’t even watch and pay attention to college ball. Parker & Embiid have both stated recently it’s not a sure thing that they’ll be entering the draft this year. Go do some research.

                I never said they weren’t going to declare, and if you weren’t so concerned with trolling and trying to sound intelligent, you would have noticed the words ‘what if’ and that I posed a hypothetical question. Reading comprehension, get familiar with that before you try and act like a smartass.

                • GetLicks

                  I’ve also never once stated that Derozan is a franchise player, so stop making assumptions cause it just makes you like an ass. You always say the same things when you come on this site and you’re always negative troll who has nothing of significance to add to a discussion.

                  And for your information, I’m no converted puck head or fair weather fan. I’ve followed this team since the late 90’s and can count on 2 hands how many games I’ve missed in the last 6-7 seasons. I’d be willing to bet that’s more than I can say for you. Stop making lame assumptions.

                • Abused Raptors Fan

                  As a raptors fan since the beginning, I’ve come to accept the peculiarities of following a NBA team from one of the less glamorous markets. At one time, I had considered going over to the dark side to follow a ‘big market’ team so I could experience winning more than losing over a number of years. But ultimately I came to accept the reality of being a Raptors fan.
                  As a result, I tend to enjoy the teams success, while it happens, when it happens. We just are the type of team capable of signing and keeping the type of players necessary for longterm success and/or championships.
                  Some have felt that the only logical step is to conclude that our only path to the top of the league is by drafting an ‘elite’ player. However, once you draft your star, your still need to be able to attract other quality free agents/vets to help your reach the promised land or achieve sustainable success. Unfortunately, one star just isn’t enough to do this in our kind of market (just ask LeBron).
                  What could help, though, is getting a few postseasons under our belt, maybe even a series win as it would help to change the league wide perceptions of the franchise and change the culture of the team.
                  Regardless, both sides of this argument need to cut this shit out, as it’s ruining this website and dividing our fan base. At least stop assuming that those who are enjoying our current success have no clue what they’re talking about when it comes to basketball, or conversely, assuming that those who don’t agree with the teams apparent direction aren’t “true” fans – whatever that means.

                • truth be told

                  Since inception, 1995 punk bitch.

                  Damon, Alvin (Robertson in case you didn’t know), and the boys.

                • GetLicksetLicks

                  Lol excuse me if I had a lil something called school in the mid-late 90’s and couldn’t watch all the games (you saying you’ve seen every game since 95 is a blatant lie by the way, unless you’re a real loser with no social life that’s not possible). But that makes you a know it all and me a punk bitch huh? I’d bet my life that you wouldn’t have the balls to talk to me or anyone else on here like that to their face. It’s easy to be a tough guy behind a computer screen, making YOU the punk bitch.

                • truth be told

                  Confirms what?

                  I watch plenty of college ball. So because Embiid and Parker said they don’t know now it means they won’t declare? and when the college season ends and Embiid is projected to go 1 or 2 you think he might not reconsider?

                  I’m no smart ass but I know ball, unlike some punk bandwagon .500 team upstart fans who know think they have something relevant to say, when they don’t

                • GetLicks Nab

                  You don’t know shit, you’re a negative nancy who always has his panties in a twist. You’re just mad cause you bought into Colangelo selling Bosh and Bargnani as franchise players and now you’re all bitter and jaded. Dumbass

                  And like I said, I said WHAT IF they don’t declare, never once said that they were staying in college. Again, I posed a hypothetical question. Go pick up a dictionary and look up what that means, fool

          • Louvens Remy

            and you still watch the Timberwolves. Mediocrity lives!

            Elite Player on the Raps—Austin Daye sucka!

            Team that hasnt won a championship without an elite player—-mothafuccin the Bulls baby during the Jordan era!!

            Team that has won a championship with an elite player that it drafted. pffft thats easy. The Sixers, The Heat, the Niners and the Alouettes.

            • Copywryter

              I was talking about basketball. The lottery skews the NBA towards draft luck for better or worse.

              The Heat? Who won the finals MVP in 2006?

              • Louvens Remy

                I was just effin with you. Its all good. I am right about the sixers though and the heat. but really who cares. Enjoy the season. The Raps are basically what everyone has been crying about. A young talented team on the rise. Its right in front of your nose. Enjoy it my man.

      • truth be told

        +1

        I love the response, which I have seen on this site for years.

        “If you don’t want to cheer for this team or support it blindly, go cheer for the Heat”

        Like you are less of a fan for wanting to see something built that is not fleeting or has sustainability.

        These type of comments are usually coming from the psuedo ball fans, or semi-converted puck heads.

        • raptorstand

          Is there not something to be said for cheering for a team that is young and going to improve. If at this moment in time the talk is championships your a joke. Teams learn to win, these guys are young we have nine guys that can walk on the floor and we don’t have a serious down load in talent. If your cant see whats in front of you , like a team being built that is not fleeting and has sustainability , you really should go watch the Heat. I’m a fan of all sports but the Raptors are the team I follow in basketball. Toronto fans man are amazing.

        • Abused Raptors Fan

          That’s kind of ignorant. I’m a diehard basketball fan with a wealth of knowledge about the Raptors, the league and the game in general yet I’ve had similar sentiments. I’ve come to accept the realities of beinga fan of a less gglamorous basketball team after years of fandom, and have used to consider changing my loyalties to one of the better franchises so I wouldn’t have to go through as much losing amd enjoy more winning.
          But I just prefer to enjoy what success the team has, while it has it because I realize how difficult it is to achieve, and how it is as fleeting as it is elusive. And as a longterm Raptors fan, I realize success comes even harder for us as our market and the peculiarities of the NBA make it very difficult to sign and keep the types of FAs needed to achieve sustainable success or win a championship. This fact often brings many to conclude that the only way to win a championship is to get a star tthrough the draft. However, even with said star, you still need FA signings to win, and having one star doesn’t help that effort all that much for the less glamorous markets (asking LeBron). What could help is some sustained moderate success, helping to change the reputation and cultures of the franchise.
          Don’t chastize someone for making assumptions about you because of your ideas and then turn around and do the exact same thing. Both sides of this debate need to cut this shit out because its getting old.

          • raptorstand

            You either want this team to win or your a troll. That says it all .

            • Abused Raptors Fan

              Thats not an oversimplification at all. Almost the same as republicans in the states claiming that anyone who doesn’t support their war efforts is unpatriotic. Im in no way for tanking, and love the way they’re playing right now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand why some people see things that way.
              Coming out after a win and gloating or insulting the tankers can be viewed as trolling too. Everyone needs to start acting like adults on this site before degenerates like some of the other fan sites

              • raptorstand

                I’m from America , and if you are still thinking in the Democratic , Republican paradigm , your asleep and need to wake up to the world around you. But then again there is nothing wrong with snoozing.

      • Louvens Remy

        We should trade Dwight Buycks for Lebron. There, that~ll fix it…overnight success!!! Then we shall all rest in peace….Seriously. Enjoy the basketball man. its good right now. first time in 5 years anything good has happened. Its fun. You dont have to hate everything because the internet tells you too and its cool to do so because you know, youll be right in the end. Eff that noise. Its sports. Entertainment!!! enjoy the shizz or cheer for Cleveland. They putting together a real good squad down there through the draft.

    • truth be told

      Many are sick of you as well.

      Fans can chose to voice their opinions in any way they please.

      Just like you don’t agree with other fans point of view I’m sure many disagree with yours.

      You can enjoy this team and continue to do so, but if others don’t or have concerns about the team, that’s their opinion. Based on many of your posts, if the fanbase is not jumping for joy over a .500 team they have issues.

      Come on man, get off your high horse.

      • raptorstand

        Well the truth be told . I hope you vomit everytime you see my name on a post. I’m not overjoyed with a 500 club I want a championship like everyone else , but my god we are winning and improving that’s what teams do that want to win championships ! But tankers think we should lose to win, war is peace and up is down.

        • truth be told

          Of course I won’t. I don’t care about you.

          You’ll be gone from this forum in the near future once things don’t go the way you think they should.

          You’re the new cesco.

          • raptorstand

            You don’t care about me? but but I thought you loved me !! Once again troll I watch this team win or lose always have always will. Sorry buddy I’m your Huckleberry for a long long time .

  • arsenalist

    This guy wouldn’t do a DeRozan/Affalo swap? The Magic are rebuilding hard and DeRozan at 24 is four years younger than Afflalo. DD would fit into their window of whatever they’re trying to do way better than Afflalo, and most would contend that he has higher potential as well. I’m not getting this at all. I think if the Magic GM was offered that deal he’d jump on it.

  • Hound

    Cant wait for the road trip. We will be in Denver, Salt Lake, Sacramento and LA cheering the boys on. GO RAPS!!!!!!

    • mike, prague

      You have a secret hide-out on their plane? :O How do you manage the travelling?

      • Hound

        Fly back and forth from Salt Lake, then drive to Sacramento and LA. Sitting behind the bench in Sacramento. Going to offer my regards to Rudy, and personally thank him for the return he brought.

  • Stephen

    Absolutely have to have this one. The trip’s too tough to let something like this slip away for no reason.

    Aside from the brainfart against the Lakers, they’ve been better about not screwing up seemingly un-screw-uppable games this season (the home-and-home against the Knicks, etc.), so I think a 5 – 6 point win is very doable.

    But, christ… that road trip doesn’t look pleasant at all.

    • Abused Raptors Fan

      …you forget about Boston? Or the Bobcats sans Kemba?

  • Louvens Remy

    Who we even playing tonight….Rapz by 100. Orlando gets some leftover OVO long sleeve tees for showing up.

  • BlakeMurphy

    DeRozan out, Hansbrough available, Vucevic in for Magic on limited minutes.

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