Raptors News

Pre-game news and notes: Calm before the storm

There’s already been a ton of work done here on Raptors Republic previewing the series, so here’s just a taste:

  • My work on the Vucevic pick-and-roll that the Magic love.
  • My big, colossal deep dive on the series.
  • Samson’s preview podcast with Anthony Doyle.
  • The first and second roundtables with all RR writers answering my questions about the season and series.
  • Oren’s piece on the bench.
  • Finally, Anthony’s piece about the demons of years past.

Beyond RR, the feeling in Toronto right now is one of quiet confidence. The process hasn’t changed because the team is in the playoffs. They expect to be here, they are confident in their status, but the approach doesn’t change. At most, they only have one team to prepare for now. Marc Gasol said it best in practice yesterday.

There is not as much things out of control in the playoffs. I think everything is pretty predicted. I think you understand what teams are trying to do on their possessions. I think you can really lock into their schemes and their tendencies. You have a lot of time to talk about it with your teammates and coaches. Preparation is obviously key. You understand how they’re going to play you in Game 1, first possession, second possession, the adjustments you make, the adjustments they make.”

Toronto’s ready. Not much to report beyond that.

“This will be the loudest (arena) that we play in,” said Steve Clifford before the game. Clifford was respectful of Toronto ahead of the game, and he was careful to tip his hat to the Scotiabank crowd in his first statement to media.

Beyond the city, he made sure to gives props to Toronto as a basketball team. Clifford knows ahead of the game that Toronto has a talent advantage, citing their top-10 rating on both sides of the bal.. To that end, Orlando is focussing on the possession game. Clifford pounded rebounding and turnovers as the keys to the game. He knows that Orlando’s offensive ceiling is not as high as Toronto’s, so getting an extra 10 scoring opportunities could be Orlando’s approach to stealing one on the road.

Not much left but for the series to tip.

Toronto Updates

OG Anunoby (appendectomy) and Patrick McCaw (thumb) is out. Conflicting reports on Anunoby, seeming like it could be anywhere from 2-4 weeks, or more. He’ll definitely be out for the first round, and Nurse was talking about any of Ibaka, Leonard, or others taking his 20-22 minutes a game as the backup power forward.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin
SG: Danny Green, Jodie Meeks
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Norman Powell, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam
C:  Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Eric Moreland, Chris Boucher

Orlando Updates

Hangovers don’t last thaaat long, so Nikola Vucevic is back. Jonathan Isaac (concussion) will also return. Mo Bamba (leg), Markelle Fultz (shoulder), and Timofey Mozgov (knee) are all out.

PG: DJ Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams, Jerian Grant
SG: Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross
SF: Aaron Gordon, Wesley Iwundu
PF: Jonathan Isaac, Jarell Martin, Amile Jefferson
C: Nikola Vucevic, Khem Birch

Assorted

  • I got a chance to speak with Zach Oliver of the Orlando Pinstripe Post in advance of the game. You can find that and more in today’s gameday preview, but here’s the convo as well:
    • 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.

  • Courtesy of the Raptors themselves, here’s an early look at the playoff shirts of game one.

The Line

Vegas has Toronto -9.5 tonight. Seems high. The over-under is 212.

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