The Orlando Magic try to bounce back from a disappointing defeat with a short trip to Tampa to take on the struggling Toronto Raptors as both teams try to find their identity.
Orlando Magic (8-12) vs. Toronto Raptors (7-12)
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The Orlando Magic are in desperate need of a win. Coach Steve Clifford said as much after the team’s loss to the LA Clippers on Friday. One win could be enough to rebuild momentum and rebuild the confidence the team has in itself. But getting the first one is going to be the difficult part. Every time the Magic tried to get themselves out of the hole on Friday, they only seemed to dig deeper.
The Toronto Raptors are in a bit of a hole themselves. Their defense is nowhere near the levels it was at a few years ago. And living in Tampa rather than at home in Toronto seemingly makes every game a road game for them. The Raptors have not found their footing yet either.
But they are still the Raptors. The Magic will have to deal with their length and superb ball handling. Orlando simply has not shown consistency offensively to keep up. The Magic have to prove it to everyone again.
3 Keys To Watch
Nikola Vucevic bounce back
The Orlando Magic are doing their best to push Nikola Vucevic for the All-Star Game. He has put up the numbers to do so. The only real ingredient missing is the wins from his team. Yes, the Magic need to win to get him to the big game. But Vucevic has to do his part. And his 10-point, 4-for-13 shooting game against the LA Clippers is not going to cut it.
Vucevic is going to have to bounce back and have a huge game for the Magic. The Toronto Raptors will give him that chance. Their mix of bigs featuring Aron Baynes and Chris Boucher is not exactly imposing. Opponents are scoring only 40.9 points per game in the paint against the Raptors though. They are still a tough team on the inside even if Vucevic should have a matchup advantage in this one.
The Orlando Magic’s defense is about a few things. The physical brand of defense the team has struggled with this year is something they can control. But it really starts with ball control. They have to be able to corral the ball and send it where they want. And that is an area the Magic have struggled with a ton this year. Opponents are scoring 48.3 points in the paint per game against them.
But coach Steve Clifford said the issue is not really about pick and roll defense. The team, he said, is playing well against the pick and roll according to the numbers he has. NBA.com’s tracking stats says opponents are scoring 0.90 points per possession with the ball handler in pick and rolls, the 15th-best mark in the league, and 1.29 points per possession to the roll man, the worst in the league. This all suggests, the Magic are struggling to contain the ball and direct it where they want it to go.
Gordon vs. Siakam
Aaron Gordon has taken on a huge responsibility this season. There is no denying that. And the giant task he has taken on is weighing on him. He is trying to do everything and there are mixed results. He would even admit that. His play has been terribly inconsistent. And his last two games were perhaps his two worst games of the season.
That responsibility will be even greater in this game. He will have to do his usual point guard duties and defend Pascal Siakam, trying to cut the head off the snake in a lot of ways. Siakam is averaging 19.0 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game in his last five games. it has been a down year for him. But his 32 points Friday nearly single-handedly brought the Toronto Raptors back from a double-digit deficit against the Sacramento Kings.