Do you believe in… Magic? Do you further believe in the Magic being the Eastern Conference dumping ground for Raptors contracts much like Sacramento is in the West? Like a sleight of hand that results in the card you picked getting drawn or someone pulling a loonie out from behind your ear, Magic exists out there, you just have to know where to look. In the league’s case it’s Orlando.
This will be the first time the Raptors meet Orlando this season, which seems not possible but believe me, I Googled it twice. The Magic are technically not last in the Eastern Conference because the Atlanta Hawks have lost one more game than them, and either Frank Vogel is playing a magnificent, plotting long game or the momentum he left the Pacers with has failed to adjust to the Florida climate. Aaron Gordon has been out for long bouts this season, but I can’t reliably tell you that has affected the Magic’s performance, one way or the other. Terrence Ross has also been out, first with a tibial fracture and now a sprained right MCL. Don’t feel too badly for our longtime guy though, he’s looking set to return fairly soon and also had an excellent All-Star Break vacation.
This game could give some extra minutes to the Raptors bench and bench-in-waiting like Malcolm Miller, who will travel with the team to Florida, plus allot some floor time to testing out new rotations. It will also prove useful in gauging if there’s anything behind the recently floated notion that Anunoby’s hit a wall, or simply snagged in a slump. It’s a good opportunity to give the starters some rest, especially coming up to an end of the week game against Washington.
Look, theoretically this game doesn’t pose much of a threat to the Raptors so I’m not going to imagine some false scenario where it does. What I am going to imagine, is dragons. One in particular—Stuff. I contacted the Hovertrax riding best friend of Aaron Gordon to ask him a few questions about how he thought tonight’s game could play out.
Katie Heindl: Morning, Stuff. First off I wanted to wish you a belated happy birthday!
Stuff the Magic Dragon: Time is bequeathed to all of us under a veil made of gossamer, occasionally a gift but most always obscured until we lift the shroud once every year and allow ourselves to look.
Katie: Excellent. Did you miss being part of the Dunk Contest this year?
Stuff: I missed the candour of contained warfare and pushing the barriers on what we ask of technology. Plus I’m really competitive.
Katie: To be blunt, the Magic have had a bad year. What are your expectations for the rest of the season?
Stuff: I wouldn’t go as far as to say a sacrifice has to be made yet.
Katie: Wait, you mean that the players don’t have to make more of a sacrifice than they already are?
Stuff: Sure, yes.
Katie: You and Aaron Gordon seem to—
Stuff: Plus we do those in the spring.
Katie: You and Gordon seem to be particularly close, but some photos surfaced this past summer break of him spending time with another mascot. Are you concerned about your friendship as this season draws to a close?
Stuff: The mouse was always treacherous, but as a collaborator its primordial. It can’t even work a phone. No dexterity. It’s a work animal, nothing more.
Katie: Alriiight. Well Stuff, just for fun, what do you think of the Raptors?
Stuff: I’ve enjoyed the sacrifice of Terrence Ross and the larger Biyombo very much. Every game against Toronto is a new opportunity to watch with eyes yet to be sated with blood on who may soon join us here in the ancient swamp.
Katie: That’s true, we do love to trade with the Magic!
The Raptors are winning by big margins over the last dozen or so games, averaging 117.33 points per game, in large part to a ferocious offence. Norman Powell looked good closing out Monday’s game against the Pistons, performance wise it felt like a nod to the Powell of lore (or last season). Even in a game like this, Powell’s far from starting, but he’ll likely get more time on the court to see whether what’s lukewarm in him right now heats up.
I’d like to see the bench tighten up in their offence but truth be told this might not be the game that gives that kind of opportunity. I’d also like to see VanVleet play 37 minutes but it’s occasionally good to be realistic.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
This is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a roster. The Magic are on a six game losing streak and I am genuinely curious to see the way in which they come out tonight. This isn’t a rotationally challenged team in the sense that they are struggling to see what works, but more in the sense of struggling in general. It feels very mean to continue writing this so I’m going to stop.
PG: D.J. Augustin, Shelvin Mack
SG: Evan Fournier, Arron Afflalo
SF: Jonathon Simmons, Wesley Iwundu
PF: Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja
C: Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo
OUT: Jonathan Isaac, Terrence Ross
TBD: Marreese Speights