Raptors News

Pre-game news & notes: DeRozan and VanVleet out for Raptors, Simmons down for Magic

It would seem as good a game as any for rest.

For the first time in nearly a month, the Toronto Raptors have lost one game in a row. With a tough, entertaining loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, the Raptors are now a woeful 18-2 over their last 20, their lead atop the Eastern Conference still just five games, their power rankings perch down to No. 2. On Tuesday, they’ll look to right the ship as they visit the Orlando Magic, who are content to have dropped six of their last seven.

Shortly before that stretch, the Magic dropped a game at home to these same Raptors that was close for longer than it maybe needed to be. That game should stand as a helpful reminder to the Raptors, then, that even rolling as they have been, another slow start would stand to make life more difficult on themselves. For weeks at a time this season, it wasn’t a message Toronto needed to hear, as they did their part to take care of lesser teams with profound emphasis. They’re still 30-2 against losing teams, they’ve just become a bit prone to letting them hang around the last few weeks.

Making matters more difficult here will be the schedule. No, it’s not a back-to-back, but this will be the ninth game in 15 days for the Raptors, a stretch that’s included a pair of back-to-backs and almost no practice time. Another back-to-back looms Wednesday, with a tough test in Cleveland, a game that has “schedule alert” written all over it as the 2-in-2, 3-in-4, 5-in-7, 10-in-16 or whatever you’d like to classify it as. The Raptors won’t use that as an excuse, though they have conceded some element of fatigue of later.

This does not excuse, it informs – were you betting on NBA action, the Raptors haven’t moved much after the loss – they’re still second in Eastern Conference odds (+165, behind Cleveland) and fourth in NBA Championship odds (+1000, behind Golden State, Houston, and Cleveland). One loss, even one that maybe suggested a lack of late-game composure or highlighted some crunch-time issues from earlier in the year, is just that. The market fully expects the Raptors to bounce back here, calling them 10.5-point favorites even with the schedule and after Dwane Casey hinted at shootaround that there could be a night off for rest for someone.twe

The game tips off at 7 on TSN 2 and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.

Raptors updates
As mentioned off the top, Casey suggested at shootaround that rest could be coming. The team has been fairly clear they don’t want to give too many nights off right at the tail end of the schedule, as they’ve felt it took them out of rhythm a bit in the past. They’ve also done a great job managing workloads for most of the season – DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl are the only players to play in every game, DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are averaging far fewer minutes than in the past, and Serge Ibaka is playing a reasonable amount. There’s still always room to exercise caution with these things, and tonight would seem like the prime night to sit one or two players down. The team likely won’t reveal if that’s the plan until closer to tip-off.

Casey also noted at shootaround that Fred VanVleet was feeling a lot better, though he’s still questionable with a right hand contusion. (I saw some tweets to the effect of this having been a lingering thing for VanVleet, but I’m not sure where that came from – he told me the injury just happened Friday when he banged his hand off of Jakob Poeltl midway through the fourth quarter.) If VanVleet can’t go, it would seem unlikely that Lowry would be the rest candidate, and he just had a rest game, anyway. Delon Wright would stand to see extended run again if VanVleet can’t play. Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller are with the team for additional depth.

UPDATE: VanVleet and DeRozan are out, per Eric Smith of Sportsnet. VanVleet, obviously, is to do with his hand, while DeRozan appears to be getting the night off for rest. No word on who starts for DeRozan yet, though Norman Powell, Malcolm Miller, and C.J. Miles would be the primary candidates.

Minor update II: DeRozan is sitting with a left thigh contusion, not just “rest,” per the Raptors. That’s probably just very precautionary and something close to “rest” anyway (and now they can’t be accused of resting guys!).

UPDATE III: Miller is starting at the two. Miller was the only option who can add a semblance of spacing without taking Miles from the 2nd unit, where he’s really needed. Norm has generally looked better with the bench, anyway, though this would have been a chance to have some actual usage. Miller at SG also means the Raptors are quite large. Magic starting two natural PFs at 3/4, so there’s a lot of 2-4 flexibility defensively. I get that most probably wanted Powell to have the shot, though.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown
SG: Malcolm Miller, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: Fred VanVleet, DeMar DeRozan
TBD: None
905: Malachi Richardson, Alfonzo McKinnie, Nigel Hayes

Magic updates
Orlando got some good news Tuesday, as Aaron Gordon will make his return after clearing the league’s concussion protocol.  Gordon had missed the last five games, opening a window for rookie Jonathan Isaac to start some games. Isaac will likely head back to the bench here, though the Magic could start very large even if Jonathan Simmons can’t go. Simmons is a game-time call with a wrist injury, and the backcourt depth is almost nonexistent since Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier remain out and Rodney Purvis was assigned to the G League today. If Simmons can’t go, Arron Afflalo could technically be dusted off and used, but the Magic might be inclined to just slide a wing up a position.

Thanks to the injuries and the Elfrid Payton trade, the Magic’s most commonly used lineup available here (the starters with Isaac in place of Gordon) has only played 85 minutes together, and they own a minus-21.4 net rating. Their most heavily used group available that has a positive net rating has managed it over just 32 minutes and is a very strange looking Augustin-Mack-Iwundu-Hezonja-Birch look. Of the lineups used the last time these teams played, only five minutes (two if Simmons can’t play) are accounted for by groups available here. Frank Vogel has his hands full, is what I’m saying.

UPDATE: Simmons is out with the wrist contusion, per Josh Robbins. Afflalo will start in his place. He’s only played 22 minutes since Feb. 24. They’re also moving Mario Hezonja to the bench to keep Isaac in the starting lineup with Gordon, a look that has very little sample together but should be solid defensively, at least.

PG: D.J. Augustin, Shelvin Mack
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Aaron Gordon, Wesley Iwundu
PF: Jonathan Isaac, Mario Hezonja
C: Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, Khem Birch, Marreese Speights
OUT: Jonathan Simmons, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross
TBD: None
Lakeland: Rodney Purvis, Jamel Artis

Assorted

  • Raptors 905 continue their four-game west-coast trip tonight. They’re 2-0 so far on the trip, securing at least one home playoff game. If they win out, they stand to earn the top seed and a bye through the first round. Nigel Hayes, Alfonzo McKinnie, and Malachi Richardson remain on assignment.
  • Here are the Last Two Minute Reports from the last three games:
    • Raptors-Pacers
      • Missed non-shooting foul on Al Jefferson (1:59)
      • Missed travel on Darren Collison (1:01)
      • Missed foul on the inbound on Serge Ibaka (0:14)
    • Raptors-Mavericks
      • Missed travel on Dwight Powell (1:04, 4th)
      • Missed defensive three seconds on Serge Ibaka (0:43, OT)
      • Missed travel on DeMar DeRozan (0:15, OT)
      • Incorrect foul called on Dennis Smith Jr. (0:07, OT)
    • Raptors-Thunder
      • Missed non-call on Carmelo Anthony, holding Pascal Siakam (0:12)
      • That’s it. Yes, that means it was a correct non-call on Brewer’s swipe on DeRozan as well as DeRozan’s push-off on Brewer earlier. Here are the NBA explanations:
        • DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive as Brewer (OKC) is retreating and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players
          attempt to perform normal basketball moves.
        • RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is
          considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender
          while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.
  • Will and I will be at Hoop Talks next Wednesday. Get tickets, come say hello.

  • Canada announced its rosters for the 2018 Commonwealth Games today, which start April 6.

The line
The Raptors are 10.5-point favorites with a 215 over-under.

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