The red-hot Toronto Raptors enter Friday’s contest against the Orlando Magic on a five-game winning streak with an 8-2 record against the Eastern Conference.
Let’s look into the most interesting storylines ahead of Raptors vs. Magic:
Both teams enter the game with a slew of injuries, meaning both coaches will need to either keep a short rotation or trust G-League players.
For the Raptors, Serge Ibaka is listed as doubtful, but there is a small chance he makes his first appearance since he sprained his ankle on November 8th. Kyle Lowry, Patrick McCaw, Matt Thomas, and Stanley Johnson are all out with injuries, which likely means increased minutes for Terence Davis II, Norman Powell, Malcolm Miller, and Chris Boucher, along with the obvious candidates.
For the Magic, Aaron Gordon is doubtful while Michael Carter-Williams and Nikola Vucevic are out. Despite being home, it will be a tough task for a Magic squad missing their two most important players while trying to avoid going 1-4 in their last five.
Fultz has been one of the best stories in the NBA this season, going from unplayable as a former No. 1 pick on the Philadelphia 76ers to averaging 11.2/2.2/3.5 on 50 percent shooting in 24.6 minutes per game in his first full season on the Magic.
More importantly, Fultz has scored 12 or more points in each of the Magic’s last six games (he has also been a + player in eight of their last ten games), giving them a legitimate secondary scorer and facilitator. He has been one of the bright spots in a Magic lineup that has underachieved to start the season, and with so many injuries this could be his time to prove he deserves a bigger role on the team.
The Athletic’s Eric Koreen recently wrote that the Raptors are the best story in the NBA, and the team is certainly playing as if they agree. In other words, this is a confident team that is enjoying proving their doubters wrong.
Not only does it look like they genuinely enjoy playing with each other, but due to injuries to key players, every player on the team is making a contribution and it seems to be bringing the players even closer together.
Everyone likes a good underdog story, and the Raptors are certainly one. Nick Nurse deserves a lot of credit for managing to win games with an elite defense despite injuries piling up, and he should be a serious candidate for the Coach of the Year award if the Raptors keep playing this well.
After playing the Magic on Friday, the Raptors will play four straight games against teams that are at least four games above .500, three of which will come at home. It will be a big test for the Raptors — who may or may not have Lowry and Ibaka back on Sunday against the Utah Jazz— and a chance to prove that they can not only compete with elite teams but defeat them after going 2-4 with a -11 against elite competition to start the season.
It wouldn’t be smart to doubt these Raptors.
Tipoff: 7:00pm EST | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: TSN1050
Kyle Lowry (thumb) is out, Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle) is doubtful, Patrick McCaw (knee surgery) will be re-evaluated at the start of December, Matt Thomas (broken finger) is out four weeks, and Stanley Johnson (groin) is out.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Terence Davis II
SG: Norman Powell, Oshae Brissett
SF: OG Anunoby, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
C: Marc Gasol, Chris Boucher, Dewan Hernandez
Aaron Gordon (ankle) is doubtful, Michael Carter-Williams (strained hip) is out, and Nikola Vucevic (ankle) is out.
PG: Markelle Fultz, DJ Augustin
SG: Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Melvin Frazier
SF: Wesley Iwundu
PF: Jonathan Isaac, Al-Farouq Aminu
C: Mo Bamba, Khem Birch