RED-ALERT ULTRA MEGA UPDATE: J.J. Redick will make his first career start tonight for the Orlando Magic, according to the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz. Mickael Pietrus will miss the game with bruised ribs. Adonal Foyle will replace Pietrus on the active roster.
|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
|November 18th, 2008
First thing's first: there's a chance that Jose Calderon, the Toronto Raptors' star point guard who is ailing with a sore right hamstring, could still play tonight. He did some drills yesterday and will undergo treatment today. The Magic would much rather he sit tonight's game out. His backup, Will Solomon, played capably against the Miami Heat on Sunday night, but he's still shaky at best. The more the Magic see of him, and the less of Calderon, the better.
Second: the Raptors are a changed team from when the Magic defeated them in the playoffs. They removed all traces of purple from their logo, unveiled a sleek black alternate uniform, and put a nifty new third logo at the center of their home floor. But the changes they made were more than cosmetic: consider the trade in which they obtained center Jermaine O'Neal, a six-time All-Star. While he's not contributing much offensively--just 12.9 points per game on 40.4% shooting--he's anchoring the defense and, more importantly, rebounding. Yet for all the beefiness he's added to the Raptors' front line, they're still 29th in offensive rebound rate and 20th in defensive rebound rate this season. Furthermore, their opponents are getting 28% of their shot attempts close to the basket--the same percentage as last year--and they're making 51.1% of them. Those numbers will improve in time, and I believe the acquisition of O'Neal will turn out to be a net positive for Toronto in the final analysis.
The front lines of both teams will be under great scrutiny tonight. Orlando's trio of Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Dwight Howard presents mis-matches galore, but the Raptors may have found a way to negate those mis-matches: by going tall themselves. Sunday against the Heat, they started 7'00" Andrea Bargnani, drafted first overall in 2006 as a center in the Dirk Nowitzki mold, at small forward alongside Chris Bosh (6'10") at power forward and O'Neal (6'11") at center. John Hollinger of ESPN wrote that it's tallball, not smallball, that's fashionable now. The strategy, surprisingly to me, worked, and Raptors beat reporter Doug Smith says all signs point toward the Raptors continuing to use it this season. How the Magic handle the Raptors' height will be interesting. Bargnani stands no chance to guard Turkoglu on the perimeter, but likewise Turkoglu is ill-suited to guard Bargnani when he posts up, as he did successfully against Miami. Perhaps more problematic for Orlando is the chore of having to defend Bosh, who has eaten Howard's lunch several times in their head-to-head matchups. He also outplayed Howard in the Olympics. I hope Dwight is sufficiently motivated to exact some revenge.
Indeed, we'll learn a lot about the Magic tonight. This game is their biggest of the season to date. A victory, especially a blowout, would go a long way toward proving their streak of seven wins in eight tries is not a fluke.
Tip's at 7 on Sun Sports, so buy this shirt while there's still time. Go Magic.
Who will win tonight's game?
This poll is closed
The Toronto Raptors
The Orlando Magic