The improving Orlando Magic visit Toronto for the second and last time this season. They are rapidly turning into Victor Oladipo’s team, as their rookie swingman is proving himself a beast-in-training. On Friday night, he put up a ridiculous stat line (30 points, 14 assists, 9 boards) in a double-OT victory over the New York Knicks. That win may have cost them the services of gunner Arron Afflalo, who rolled his ankle.
I’m taking some latitude in calling the Magic “improving”. They certainly aren’t doing so away from home; their road record is 3-25 (14 straight losses!). The Magic bought out veteran power forward Glen Davis at the trade deadline when they found no takers for his contract, and have only 12 players on the roster. Orlando is going all-in with their kids, a wise decision which will pay off handsomely in several years. We’re going to see a lot of Andrew Nicholson (who will probably have an entourage of family and friends from Mississauga at the Air Canada Centre), Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, and Oladipo, who may not get off the floor. Jameer Nelson will be trying to direct this kindergarten class from his point guard position. The Raptors should be able to crush this squad, and will if they:
- get out to an early lead. Don’t ever let a young underdog team think it has a chance. The Raptors need to step on the visitors’ throats quickly, and not let up. Specifically, they need to run the ball right at Oladipo. If he gets in foul trouble early while trying to slow down DeMar DeRozan or Terrence Ross, and Afflalo is out or hobbled, Orlando’s offense goes up in smoke.
- work the ball inside. Jonas Valanciunas bounced back from a couple of crummy games with a solid effort against Cleveland, and is no doubt thrilled at the chance to beat up this team. What little defensive presence the Magic had is gone. Amir Johnson should be able to roll down the lane all day, and Patrick Patterson should get lots of open looks for his mid-range jumper.
- finish the game! Why our guys have had such difficulty in fourth quarters recently is beyond me, and Dwane Casey.
I think it’s time for an old-fashioned blowout, with the starting five in sweatsuits following the third quarter. They can watch the second unit run up the score, till it ends Raps 102 – Magic 79.