1 stud and 1 dud as Fred VanVleet, Raptors defeat lowly Magic

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - APRIL 01: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors drives on Ignas Brazdeikis #17 of the Orlando Magic (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - APRIL 01: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors drives on Ignas Brazdeikis #17 of the Orlando Magic (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors are not just angling for a shot at the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. There’s a shot that they could easily make the jump up to No. 5 if stars like Pascal Siakam and bench players like Khem Birch all hit their stride. Nick Nurse needed to prove how skilled his team was in a matchup down in Florida.

The Raptors have had issues with playing down to their competition, and the Orlando Magic took advantage of that by tying the game in the second quarter without Franz Wagner. The Raptors started sluggishly, but an energetic finish to the half helped them get out in front of Jahaml Mosley’s defense.

Toronto would eventually pull away and secure a 102-89 win despite a ferocious fourth-quarter rally. from the Magic. The Raptors are now tied with the Bulls in fifth place, though they could keep moving up depending on how they perform against the Heat and 76ers.

The Raptors were expected to march into Orlando and take care of business, and they did exactly that. Only a couple of players can look themselves in the mirror and come away disappointed with how they performed tonight.

81. 89. 38. Final. 102

Fred VanVleet was the leader for the Toronto Raptors tonight.

VanVleet didn’t look like himself at the end of March, as a limiting knee injury make it tough for him to generate the same offensive efficiency and defensive peskiness we have all come to expect. Friday night looked more like the All-Star we all know and love.

VanVleet recorded 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, and a ridiculous five steals tonight. While the five steals are impressive, several other turnovers were a result of his tireless defense. VanVleet is just a few 3-pointers away from breaking Kyle Lowry’s record for makes in a single season.

Given how Scottie Barnes was on a torrid scoring tear in the second quarter and Gary Trent Jr. was shooting well from 3-point range, picking VanVleet was not a given. Upon further reflection, what VanVleet did on both ends of the floor was too impressive to deny.

Even though he didn’t have the most efficient night from 3-point range, this is the type of VanVleet performance Toronto will need in the postseason. Sure, he may have played well against Orlando, but he is more than capable of sustaining this against a team like Milwaukee or Boston.

The Toronto Raptors didn’t get much from Khem Birch.

Is it fair to go after a guy who has been relegated to the fourth-string bench big man? Absolutely! Birch, who came off the bench after Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher, may have played just four minutes, but they were so ineffective that Nurse hesitated to put him back in.

In those minutes, Birch recorded three fouls and turned the ball over while failing to score any points. While he could in theory provide a more traditional, back-to-the-basket approach at center, he did nothing of the sort against an Orlando team that threw some less than stellar names at him.

The playoff rotation is likely going to squeeze one member out of the usual grouping, and Birch has been making the decision very easy over the last few weeks. Lacking Thad Young’s multifaceted game, Boucher’s energy, and Achiuwa’s two-way potential, Birch could be rooted on the bench in April.

dark. Next. 1 prospect from every Final Four team Raptors could draft