After 180 days of regular season basketball, the playoffs are finally here. The Toronto Raptors will host the Orlando Magic this evening. Hypothetical questions revolving around rotations, playing style, and defensive schemes will be answered tonight!
The news on Friday of OG Anunoby’s sudden injury is no doubt a blow for the Raptors, but it is an obstacle that they can overcome. Norman Powell will now unquestionably be the eighth man in the lineup and Nick Nurse will have to decide between heavier minutes for his rotation or the inclusion of a ninth player. Nurse addressed the Anunoby news on Friday morning:
There has been plenty of Raptors-centric breakdowns and dissecting of the four previous encounters between the teams, so we have decided to change it up a little bit. In preparation for the opening tip, we got a little insight into the series and the Magic’s season as a whole from Zach Oliver of the Orlando Pinstriped Post.
1) Orlando had a killer finish to the season. Are they a typical 7 seed?
I’m not totally sure this Orlando Magic team is a typical seven seed, but they might be. If the team that shows up to play is the one that’s been running on the court since the last few days of January, then they aren’t. They’ve been one of the best teams in the league over that stretch, a lot of what they’ve done well will translate to the playoffs. They’re going to be a tough out, even if it’s a short series (i.e. 4-5 games).
2) In the regular season, Gordon and Isaac were brilliant against Leonard and Siakam. What was behind that, and is there any reason to expect that will change?
I think the fact that both Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac aren’t afraid to get into their opponents body is something that’s helped them a lot this season. They don’t give guys a lot of space to move, and if they do get behind, both are excellent at closing out, and threat to block a jumper, or have a chase down block. Gordon especially loves to take the challenge of guarding the opponents best player, and Kawhi Leonard definitely fits that. Add in the length that both Gordon and Isaac possess, and that takes away some passing lanes and makes it harder for either Leonard or Pascal Siakam to make plays for their teammates as well.
3) After watching the Raptors choke off Orlando’s pick-and-roll in the final three quarters of the fourth game between them, how do you think Orlando’s offence will fare against Toronto’s defence?
I think it’ll be a challenge. The Magic will have to make some adjustments if they’re going to be able to break down the Raptors pick-and-roll defense and have the success that they need to to be able to score the ball. I think we’ll see some adjustments where the Magic might try to get the ball into Nikola Vucevic’s hands in the high post a little more without running PnR’s to try and let guys like Evan Fournier, Gordon and Isaac move off the ball. We could also see Gordon take on a little bit more of a creators role in the series to try and open up another dimension of the Magic offense.
4) Terrence Ross struggled against Toronto in the regular season. Will that trend continue, or is it just a streaky shooter being streaky?
I think it’s a bit of him being a streaky shooter, but it also depends on the quality of the shots he’s taking, and where he’s getting said shots from. He’s been lethal this season coming off of pin downs, and has had a lot of success with running off of screens, and drawing contact with the defender who’s chasing him, or someone who might step up to contest the shot. I imagine he also puts a little more pressure on himself in these games since they’re coming against his former team.
5) Toronto has frequently been demolished in bench minutes this season, and games 1-3 were the same story between Toronto-Orlando. Can Orlando sustain that advantage?
So much of the Magic’s bench success comes down to how Ross plays. He’s going to command a lot of attention either way, but if he’s knocking down shots, he’s even more of a problem. Also how Toronto does against the Michael Carter-Williams and Khem Birch PnR that’s given the Magic some nice success will be important. Birch isn’t a natural scorer, but he’s a hard rim runner who can open things up for teammates like Wes Iwundu spotting up in the corners, and with Gordon with that unit, it adds in some more matchup problems for the opposition. So, ultimately this comes down to how Ross plays. If he’s able to get his like he has for the majority of the season, and especially in the last few weeks, then the Magic’s second unit will cause some problems for the Raptors.
6) Call it.
I think the Magic give the Raptors a bit of headache in this series. They’re a gritty team that plays good defense — they’re the best defense in the league since February — and they rebound the ball exceptionally well, and they’re, generally, a low turnover team. If they’re able to do all those things, this series could go longer than most expect it to. I think the Magic will steal a game somewhere along the lines — likely game three in Orlando — but they’ll fall short with Toronto winning in five.
TV: Sportsnet ONE Tipoff: 5pm EST
The Raptors are a 8.5 point favourites. O/U: 213.0
Patrick McCaw (thumb) and OG Anunoby (appendectomy) are out.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin
SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell, Jodie Meeks
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher
Markelle Fultz (shoulder), Isaiah Briscoe (knee), Mo Bamba (leg), and Timofey Mozgov (knee) are out.
PG: DJ Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams, Jerian Grant
SG: Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross
SF: Jonathan Isaac, Wesley Iwundu
PF: Aaron Gordon, Jarell Martin
C: Nikola Vucevic, Khem Birch