We made it! After weeks of being locked into the two-seed and watching the uninspiring race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spots, the Toronto Raptors can finally game plan against a known opponent.
The Raptors will begin their playoff campaign against the 7th seeded Orlando Magic. The playoff schedule will be announced later tonight.
So there you have it. The debates as to which matchup would cause Toronto the most headaches – the blossoming D’Angelo Russell, the Detroit Pistons fueled by Dwayne Casey’s revenge, or Jeremy Lamb fifty foot heaves – can be cast aside. The lengthy Magic team will head to Toronto in a series that the Raptors are heavily favoured to win with relative ease.
The Raptors Republic team will break down the series in greater detail in the next coming days, however here is a quick fix of things to look forward to:
Regular Season Results
Nov 20 AWAY – W 93-91
- Kawhi Leonard: 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
- Evan Fournier: 27 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists
Dec 28 AWAY – L 87-116
- Serge Ibaka: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists
- Nikola Vucevic: 30 points, 19 rebounds, 8 assists
Feb 24 HOME – L 98-113
- Kyle Lowry: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 10 assists
- Nikola Vucevic: 23 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists
Apr 01 HOME – W 121-109
- Danny Green: 29 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist
- Evan Fournier: 21 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Good: Recency bias
At first glance, Toronto has been underwhelming against the Magic. However, in the only matchup where this iteration of the Raptors have been fully fit they ran them off of the floor 121-109. Danny Green caught fire, Serge Ibaka was a menace off of the bench, and the starters zipped the ball across the court at will. Toronto dismantled Orlando’s defense, despite receiving next to no calls from the referees.
The only other game with Marc Gasol in the lineup did not feature Fred VanVleet nor Kawhi Leonard.
The Bad: Scoring
Toronto finished the season averaging 114.4 points per game and are fifth in the league in offensive rating. However, against Orlando, the Raptors have been forced into a sluggish pace and are only scoring 99.8 points per game. Their fastbreak scoring has also dropped by six points per game. This lack of scoring in transition has been a key factor behind Pascal Siakam’s struggles in this matchup.
In fact, the only rotational player to average more points against Orlando than their season average is Green, whose scoring bumped from 10.3 points to 13.5 per game. The ridiculous wingspan of the Magic defense has also stunted the Raptors’ ability to score inside; their points in the paint per game has dropped from 48.5 to 38.5 against Orlando.
The Ugly: Aaron Gordon’s performances
The man who stunned the world during arguably the greatest dunk contest of all-time in Toronto has been dreadful against the Raptors this season. Gordon is shooting 33 per cent from the field and 23 per cent from deep enroute to an abysmal 9.5 points per game in the four outings. These numbers are well below his season averages.
Ones to watch
Nikola Vucevic earned himself a first ever all-star appearance along with a fat new contract come this summer. The Swiss-born centre has posted career highs in scoring, rebounding, and assists, and emerged himself as the go-to guy amongst a crowded frontcourt. His versatility as a scorer poses a difficult decision for Nick Nurse. Vucevic bullied Siakam in the post and has been unstoppable as a roller, finishing at the rim and displaying some playmaking chops. Both Ibaka and Gasol struggled to close out Vucevic when he stretched his shot outside in the pick-and-pop as he shot 45 per cent from deep. Another sneaky banana peel that may slip up the Raptors is Terrence Ross. Toronto fans are well aware of Ross’ ability as a microwave scorer, albeit inconsistent.