Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Raptors Might Be Turning The Corner.
I almost couldn’t get the sentence out myself. Why? Because the Raptors have turned a corner before this season. They turned a corner after winning three of four against the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, and Indiana Pacers. They turned a corner after dominating for the majority of games against the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trailblazers, despite the losses. They turned a corner after Pascal Siakam broke out against the Sacramento Kings. So, again, the Raptors find themselves turning a corner after a full performance against the Orlando Magic.
If Toronto’s admittedly encouraging win in the first of a two-game set against the Magic represented yet another turning of the corner, then this season is something of a maze, twisting and spiraling , with corners in every direction. Which … fits.
Oh yeah, and there’s actually another game ahead. My guy Samson Folk already wrote a fantastic preview for the first game, so I’ll direct you there if you’re looking for the ins and outs of the specific matchups between the two teams. They will be mostly the same in this one. And after Toronto’s wire-to-wire win, I’ll also point you towards all of the post-game content we had, as the Raptors will of course be facing the same team.
- You can find our new post-game show, called Rap Up here, hosted by Sahal Abdi and Oren Weisfeld. They’ll be taking over hosting duties permanently, offering a live show complete with video after every game!
- You can find Samson’s post-game pod here, with plenty of love for Aron Baynes, the Defenders Three, Siakam, and Kyle Lowry.
- You can find Samson’s Quick Reaction here, with plenty of love for everyone! (mostly)
- You can find my description of Siakam as a pool hustler here.
That’s a pretty wide variety of content for a ho-hum Sunday game against the Magic! In three different media, no less. Cool.
This one will be even less exciting than the first contest, in terms of marquee names available, with Aaron Gordon out this time with a severe left ankle sprain. But there are still plenty of themes to watch.
On Toronto’s side, the first and most important thing I’ll be watching is the fit on both ends between Siakam and Baynes. The first Orlando game represented a high water mark for this early season, as they were seamless together for the most part. Baynes had a good matchup against Nikola Vucevic, and he did a wonderful job sticking to the paint, corralling drivers, and rebounding the ball. But Baynes has been solid on the defensive end. His work on offense was even more significant.
Baynes did a fantastic job staying in his lane on offense. He set monstrous screens, walloping guards to give plenty of freedom for Fred VanVleet in the first quarter and Lowry afterwards. He cleared out of the lane to give Siakam space to attack the rim on the drive. He shot 3-of-4 from 2-point range and snatched three offensive rebounds. His 3-point shot isn’t falling, but he did enough of a job to keep from limiting his teammates, which is a step in the right direction.
Beyond Baynes and Siakam together, look for the Defenders Three (Yuta Watanabe, DeAndre’ Bembry, and Stanley Johnson) to see who gets minutes with whom, and whether Nick Nurse trusts lineups with two or even all three of them on the court together. In their manic defensive chaos, they simulate the 2019-20 Raptors in their ability to force turnovers, get out in transition, and play with overwhelming energy. Look to see if VanVleet’s head is right after taking contact early in the second quarter last game. Look to see if Lowry’s passing remains a tier-one weapon, or if Lowry allows his teammates to take the lead on offense.
So even if this isn’t a marquee game, there is still plenty to watch, as always. Most importantly: are the Raptors truly turning a corner?
Tipoff: 7pm EST | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: TheFan590
OG Anunoby (left calf strain) and Patrick McCaw (knee) are out. Norman Powell (quad contusion) is questionable . Jalen Harris is on assignment with the 905.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Malachi Flynn
SG: Fred VanVleet, DeAndre’ Bembry, Matt Thomas
SF: Terence Davis, Stanley Johnson, Paul Watson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Yuta Watanabe
C: Aron Baynes, Chris Boucher
Aaron Gordon (ankle), Markelle Fultz (knee), Michael Carter-Williams (ankle), Jonathan Isaac (knee), Al-Farouq Aminu (knee), and Chuma Okeke (knee) are all out. Wow the Magic are thin.
PG: Cole Anthony, Jordan Bone
SG: Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Karim Mane
SF: James Ennis III, Dwayne Bacon
PF: Khem Birch, Gary Clark
C: Nikola Vucevic, Mo Bamba
Raps are -5. Seems like a solid bet for Toronto given Orlando’s injury woes, but for a team this inconsistent, it’s impossible to say if it’s a sure thing. Over-under is 219.5. (They combined for 217 in game one, so I would take the under.)