Archive for the ‘Orlando Magic’ Category

Start time: 6:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Rasual Butler, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
Orlando: Chris Duhon, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson, Dwight Howard

Injury report

Toronto: Jerryd Bayless will miss at least the next two games with a sprained ankle. Aaron Gray is out indefinitely, and I’m going to put him in the category with Linas Kleiza of guys you can assume will be out unless we hear otherwise.

Orlando: Jameer Nelson and DeAndre Liggins (who?) are both questionable for today.

Nobody outside of Orlando is paying much attention to the Magic now that the Dwight Howard trade talk has died down for the moment, but they’re off to another strong start and they’ll probably be a top-four team in the East yet again if they’re crazy enough to keep Dwight on their team for the whole season. Not much has changed with the Magic — they’re strong defensively, they’re well-coached and they shoot a buttload of three-pointers. OK, one thing has changed: Their second-best player is making $2.2 million this season and his name is Ryan Anderson.

Anderson isn’t new to me. He’s been on my radar since he started putting up some impressive scoring numbers off the bench last season. I got him with the 126th pick in my fantasy draft and he’s second on my team in fantasy points behind Blake Griffin. Now that he’s been moved into the starting lineup for the first four games of this season, he’s averaging 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 43.2 percent from long-range.

If those numbers don’t remind you of anyone, then you’re clearly not a Raptors fan. He’s Andrea Bargnani at roughly 25 percent of the cost. I’ve always known that Bargnani could thrive playing next to Howard, but it turns out the Magic don’t need to trade for him because they already have their own knock-off version. I should point out one significant difference: Anderson has taken 9.3 treys per game so far compared to 3.3 per game for Bargnani. When you shoot three-pointers as effectively as Anderson does, I don’t blame Stan Van Gundy for encouraging him to jack up as many as possible.

Who is going to win the Bargnani-vs.-Anderson matchup today? Am I the only NBA fan in the world who would even bother to ask this question? Probably, yeah.

Random thoughts…

  • Has the insufferable and completely unnecessary controversy about whether Bargnani or DeMar DeRozan should be the Raptors’ first scoring option kicked into gear yet? At this stage of their development, Bargnani is still the more potent and well-rounded scorer. Ultimately, it might not matter because it’s unclear how he fits into the team’s long-term plans. So far this season, he’s been deadly.
  • For all the good things Facebook and Twitter have brought into our lives, I don’t see it as progress that so many people were spending so much time updating their statuses and tweeting about their New Year’s Eve parties last night instead of actually making sure they got their money’s worth from their exorbitantly overpriced tickets. Can we put away our iPhones for one night, perhaps?

For today’s pre-game laugh, here’s the classic “Eradicator” sketch from the Kids in the Hall. Bruce McCulloch was always my favorite Kid.

Getty Images

A solid crowd packed the Air Canada Centre to see the Bargnani-less and Calderon-less Raptors take on Hedo Turkoglu and the Magic, and the sellout crowd of 19 800 were treated to quite the ball game.

It didn’t look like a good game was on tap in the first quarter, as the two teams couldn’t get out of their own ways, and played a very slow-paced opening frame. But the Raptors were showing a refreshing commitment to defence, and Ed Davis led the way early on, as Toronto hung with Orlando.

Dwight Howard began taking over in the second quarter, and was virtually unstoppable inside. Even worse, D-12 was making his free throws in the first half. The Magic took control with a 30-point second quarter, but the Raptors refused to lay down.

The third quarter was a battle of the point guards, as Jameer Nelson and Jerryd Bayless traded shot for shot. Despite conceding back-to-back 30-point quarters and clearly being outmatched in the skill department, the Raptors headed to the fourth quarter down just six points, and the rowdy ACC crowd could sense an upset looming.

Jerryd Bayless continued to carry the team in the final quarter, and DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa hit some big shots late, as the Raptors climbed back in front. Orlando had its chances to regain control, but either ended up turning the ball over or missing free throws.

The playoff-bound Magic could only watch as the young, scrappy Raptors manufactured one of their best victories of the season. Without their leading scorer and starting point guard, the Raptors, losers of six straight and 20-55 (coming into this game) overall, were able to knock off an East power and their superstar in impressive fashion.

The Raps left the court to a standing ovation. It was a welcomed sight to see, and well-deserved by the players on this night.

The obvious positives from this game are that the young core pieces all contributed. DeRozan and Bayless combined for 47 points, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson provided solid defence inside and James Johnson put together another balanced stat-line of 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Another impressive note from the night is that the Raptors dominated one of the better rebounding teams in the league on the glass, out-rebounding Orlando, 48-30. Leading the way in this department – who else, but Reggie Evans, who pulled down 17 rebounds in 32 minutes off of the bench.

The game had its slow points, but was, overall, another entertaining affair at the ACC. Raptors fans have to be happy with the performance from their young team, and the end result.

And yes, I will be one of the people who comments on the fact that this team is scrappier, better defensively, better on the glass and overall, just more entertaining without Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani. It doesn’t mean I’m a Calderon or Bargnani “hater,” though I have stated my issues with those two in the past.

I’m just stating an opinion; an opinion I believe is obvious to anyone who watches this team on a regular basis.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 35 Min, 23 Pts, 7-14 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 6-7 FT, 2 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl,

Magic Player of the Game: Dwight Howard – 39 Min, 31 Pts, 11-20 FG, 9-15 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Quentin Richardson – 23 Min, 3 Pts, 1-4 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 TO

Stan Van GundyI feel like the Orlando Magic are in a similar situation to the one the Raptors faced when it became clear to most right-thinking individuals that they couldn’t surround Chris Bosh with garbage and expect the team to win anything. The obvious difference is that Dwight Howard is indisputably a top-five NBA player, while Chris Bosh is… I don’t know, is he even considered to be a top-40 player at this point?

Regardless, not only will I not think less of Dwight Howard if he signs with another team when he’s a free agent after next season, a part of me will think less of him if he doesn’t. Once Magic General Manager Otis Smith figured out a way to trade Rashard Lewis’ second-worst contract for Gilbert Arenas’ worst contract, I became convinced that he’s one of the worst NBA execs in the league — regardless of his team’s record.

It seems as though it’s not a matter of if Dwight Howard will end up as a Laker, it’s a matter of when. Andrew Bynum might be the second-best pure center in the NBA and his contract has a team option that would enable the Magic to hang onto him for an extra season — as far as I’m concerned, they’re nuts if they don’t make that trade. If they don’t, they’re almost certainly going to lose Dwight in a similar fashion to the way the Raptors lost Bosh.

The Magic don’t have much in the way of specific motivation to win most of their remaining six regular season games. They’re four games ahead of the fifth seed and four-and-a-half games behind the third seed so their playoff position is pretty much solidified. The Raptors and Magic split their previous two matchups, but the Raptors won by four while the Magic won by 40.

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon will both be game-time decisions tonight.

Orlando: Gilbert Arenas will miss today’s game with the notorious “flu-like symptoms” while J.J. Redick, Chris Duhon and Daniel Orton are probably out for the season.

Five questions

1. Do you think Dwight Howard deserves some MVP consideration in spite of the Magic not being legitimate contenders?

2. Will Gilbert Arenas play out the rest of his career like an Eddy Curry punchline?

3. In eight starts with the Raptors, Jerryd Bayless has averaged 33 minutes, 15.9 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 48.9 percent from the field. Why shouldn’t the Raptors let him take over the starting point guard role next season?

4. Considering how much he’s fallen off recently, do you think Sonny Weems will even be in the NBA next season?

5. Based on this photo, doesn’t it look like Stan Van Gundy has lost some weight?

Start time: 6:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson
Orlando: Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard

I asked my wife to recommend today’s pregame song and she picked “Hot n’ Fun” by N.E.R.D. and Nelly Furtado. I don’t think it has any relevance to this game, but Nelly Furtado is hot and the song is fun, so why not?

Getty Images

Dwight Howard and the Magic go whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted

The Raptors made a couple of changes to the starting lineup for tonight’s game. Linas Kleiza, returning from injury, replaced Julian Wright in a move that makes you wonder if the coaching staff prefers chuckers over a guy who plays the game the right way. Joey Dorsey replaced Amir Johnson in the starting five, in a move I actually understood. Dorsey is a better candidate to bang in the paint with Dwight Howard than Amir is, and Amir would likely find himself in foul trouble.

Now let’s get to the actual game.

The Raptors came out flat against a pretty good Magic team, and probably would have been run out of the gym if it wasn’t for Orlando’s poor shooting, which by the way, had nothing to do with Toronto’s defence.

DeMar DeRozan provided the only spark for the Raptors early on, as he attacked the basket and piled up 10 first quarter points. DeMar forced some tough shots, and took seven shots overall in the first, but his four trips to the line in that quarter alleviated some of that inefficient offence.

That the Raptors were only down by eight after getting out-rebounded 20-8 and shooting just 28.6 per cent in the first quarter was a minor miracle.

The Raps were even more outclassed in the second quarter, as the Magic got to the basket with ease when they attacked, and were given open jumpers when they wanted them. Orlando quickly opened up a 13-point lead, only to have that margin shrink to six by the break. Again, the Raptors found themselves in a very fortunate situation. They were in a two-possession game at the half, with a vastly superior team that was clearly out-playing them. It should have been a wake-up call. Instead, it was apparently an excuse to crap the bed in the second half, because things were about to get ugly.

After putting together a bit of a run out of the half, and cutting the deficit to two early in the third quarter, the Raptors seemed to hit a brick wall, as the Magic unleashed a fury on their hapless opponents.

Slowly but surely, Orlando’s lead grew in the third, and they enjoyed a comfortable 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter. I expected at least one run from the Raptors in the fourth, to make it semi-interesting for a few minutes. It never came.

The reality is that most of the men in black had quit at that point. Don’t be fooled when Triano and some players try to put an ignorant spin on it. They quit, and that’s the story.

A 16-0 Magic run early in the fourth made the score laughable at 91-59, and the scary thing is that the worst was yet to come. With most of the Raptors strolling up and down the floor without a care in the world, the Magic refused to let up, eventually making it a 40-point game.

DeRozan, Johnson, Dorsey (who left early with a knee problem), Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless and Julian Wright were the six players that seemed to be legitimately embarrassed by what was going on, and attempted to do something about it. The rest of the team may as well have not showed up at all.

On one positive note, Julian Wright proved his worth, yet again. He at least put an effort in on the defensive end, rebounded the ball and showed more of that promising passing ability. Linas Kleiza went 1-of-6 from the field, but if you know anything about Triano and these Raptors, chances are Kleiza still starts Saturday in Miami.

If you really want to know how bad this game was from a Toronto perspective, look no further than Jose Calderon. The usually sweet shooting point-guard was 0-for-6 in 28 minutes. Ouch.

Speaking of poor shooting, how about the funk Andrea Bargnani is in? A 3-of-14 night in Orlando means he is now 13-of-51 over the last three games. If Bargnani was putting even an ounce of effort into another aspect of his game, maybe the team could live with this. But since he’s not, his lazy behind should be stapled to the bench when the ball gets tipped in Miami on Saturday.

To be honest, through two and a half quarters, I saw this game as a prime example of an elite team, or close to it, doing what they were supposed to do to a young, inexperienced, injury-riddled, lousy team. So I didn’t plan on ripping the Raptors too hard. But the display they put on in the second half had nothing to do with youth, experience or injuries. It had to do with heart.

And a team should always be lambasted when that is missing, no matter what their situation is.

Raptors Player of the Game: Julian Wright – 27 Min, 6 Pts, 3-7 FG, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

Magic Player of the Game: Dwight Howard – 30 Min, 31 Pts, 12-21 FG, 7-13 FT, 19 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Linas Kleiza – 23 Min, 4 Pts, 1-6 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 1-2 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO (You could go with Kleiza, Bargnani or Calderon here)

Where's Hedo? (Photo: Getty Images)

Seems hard to believe now, but the Raptors actually beat the Magic 110-106 the last time these teams played in Orlando on Nov. 12. Andrea Bargnani had 27 points, DeMar DeRozan had 26 points and the Raptors outrebounded the Magic 39-34. The chances of all three feats beating repeated tonight are slim to none, and slim is still in Toronto with a sprained ankle.

The Magic may, in fact, be vulnerable for an upset tonight since they’ve only won two of their last five games and one of those wins was a one-point overtime win over the Sixers. Then again, the Raptors are on a five-game losing streak and pretty much suck right now. It’s a toss-up! (Not really.)

Injury report

Toronto: Leandro Barbosa and Sonny Weems are out, Linas Kleiza is questionable.

Orlando: Their three injured players (Jason Williams, Malik Allen and Daniel Orton)  have logged a combined 252 minutes this season, so nobody of consequence is out.

Five questions

1. Has Turkoglu’s resurgence in Orlando been somewhat overblown? He’s averaging under 12 points per game since his return to the Magic and Stan Van Gundy wants him to be more aggressive on offence.

2. Do you think the acquisitions of Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas will make the Magic a legitimate post-season threat beyond the second round?

3. Was the Raptors’ previous win over the Magic their best win so far this season?

4. Is Ryan Anderson going to start getting some Sixth Man of the Year buzz if he keeps up his recent play? In his last seven games off the bench, he’s averaging 15 points, seven rebounds and a block while shooting around 50 percent from the field and beyond the arc.

5. Are you mad at Peja Stojakovic for faking his knee injury so he wouldn’t have to play while he was a Raptor?

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Julian Wright, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Orlando: Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard

In tribute to the fifth anniversary of The Basketball Jones, tonight’s pregame song is the one they used to use to open their podcast before they sold out and joined me at TheScore: “Napoleon Says” by Phoenix. I’ll be at their live show tonight at the El Mocambo along with Holly MacKenzie and a bunch of other Score people. If you’re going, come say hi and we’ll commiserate about the sad state of this team and Peja the Jerk.