Hey, wake up from your nap. Yes, I know, you were up at 7 a.m. to watch Canada’s Olympic gold medal hockey game against Sweden, but that ended hours ago. Hell, you might even be sober by now. Even if not, there’s basketball on, at 6 p.m. on TSN, as your CANADIAN Toronto Raptors host those DAMN AMURICANS the Orlando Magic. Jingoism, baby!
We saw this game less than a month ago and it was exactly what you’d expect from a team leading their division and a team trying to do the exact opposite. Will it be more of the same on Sunday? I don’t know. It’s 3 a.m. and I just got home from work and I’m unclear if I want to try and sleep before the hockey game or just power through and then nap before my 5 p.m. shift tomorrow. Way she goes.
We talked about Victor Oladipo last time we exchanged emails and you were still high on him. Was Friday’s double-OT performance against the Knicks an affirmation of that, or did it move the bar up even higher for him moving forward?
Yeah, his performance against the Knicks on Friday (30 points, a career-high 14 assists, 9 rebounds, and 2 steals) simply confirmed what I believe. I said previously that Oladipo has star potential and nothing has swayed me from that opinion. He’s a special talent. But more importantly, he has the hunger and desire to continue getting better.
Without Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis, is there anyone you can see stepping up in their place? Maybe Mo Harkless can take on a bigger scoring load, or they can run more plays through Tobias Harris?
With Afflalo out (ankle), I think you’ll see a lot more touches for Oladipo. He’s comfortable shouldering a heavy load offensively, so that will likely be Jacque Vaughn’s plan of attack to circumvent the absence of Afflalo. As for Glen Davis’ departure, that simply clears room for Harris to become the full-time power forward like he was last season when Big Baby was injured.
The Raptors have opened as just five-point favorites, at home no less, with Afflalo and Davis out, coming off a 15-point Raptors win against Orlando less than a month ago. That seems…wrong, right?
I’m surprised the spread isn’t larger. The Magic are a horrendous road team (3-25) and they’re going to be without their best player. There’s always the chance that Oladipo goes supernova again like he did against New York and helps Orlando pull an upset, but I’d be surprised if Toronto didn’t win the game by double digits.
Seriously, I tweeted as much on Saturday, but how in the blue hell is this line Raptors -5? They were 10.5-point favorites on Jan. 29 when they hosted the Magic and beat them by 15. Since that game, the Raptors have gone 6-4, the Magic have gone 5-5 and the Magic have lost Glen Davis to buyout and Arron Afflalo to a sprained ankle. If you can still find this line when this posts, jump all over it.
And yes, that means I’m confident in the Raptors coming out with a victory. They rebounded alright following the disappointing Chicago loss, but they still didn’t beat a banged-up Cleveland team as well as you’d hope thanks to a sloppy first half. I don’t want to say they’ve “played down” to their competition coming out of the break because none of the three teams are terrible and they’ve still gone 2-1, but it feels like they haven’t found that “playoff push” gear yet.
There’s actually a real opportunity to build some momentum here, too, as the Magic are followed by the Cavs and Wizards again, a tough home date with Golden State a week from now and then a strange four-day break (for the NHL trade deadline, obviously). If the Raptors can pick up steam with a few more wins against lesser teams, they could be in a really strong position looking down the last 20 games of the year.
In any case, they have to beat the Magic first. Nikola Vucevic is a real problem on the glass and will prove a test for Jonas Valanciunas and Tobias Harris is a fantasy add who really won’t kill you on offence, but Oladipo is the focus. He’s the straw, he’s the engine, he’s the only player on the team capable of changing the game. He was held in check last time (12-2-3) but that hardly means things will be easy in that regard.
But the Raptors should win, and the five-point spread is a joke. Double-digits or my name isn’t Edward Blake Gretzky Lemieux Crosby Price Hart Storm Murphy.Follow @raptorsrepublic