|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|January 4th, 2009|
|Air Canada Centre|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Will Solomon|
|Keith Bogans||SG||Anthony Parker|
|Hedo Turkoglu||SF||Jamario Moon|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Chris Bosh|
|Dwight Howard||C||Andrea Bargnani|
|November 18th: Magic 103, Raptors 90|
Your eyes do not deceive you, Orlando Magic fans: the Toronto Raptors are indeed stuck at 13-20, fourth in the Atlantic Division, and currently out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They've won only 3 of their last 10 games, but their most recent one was a 94-73 spanking of the Houston Rockets. This is not a team to be taken lightly, especially not with noted Magic-killer Chris Bosh in the lineup. Since the 2006/2007 season, Bosh has faced the Magic six times. In those games, he's averaged 34.8 points on 57.7% shooting from the field 89.9% from the line. That last number is particularly important, since he's averaged 14.8 free throw attempts against the Magic in that span. His ability to get to the line, convert, and put the Magic in the penalty has kept the Raptors in games against them. I expect no less from him today. The key will be stopping the Raptors' other players from heating up. With all due respect to them, it shouldn't be too difficult.
Indeed, the Magic might not get a better shot at the Raptors than they will today. Starting
center centre Jermaine O'Neal (knee) and point guard Jose Calderon (hamstring) are doubtful for today's game, meaning the not-very-deep Raptors will likely be short-handed. Fans in Toronto are fed-up with O'Neal's injury problems. Raptors Republic writes, "I'm not saying he has a low threshold for pain but word on the street is that he sits for an hour after each tackle in Madden '09." Zing.
Even with Bosh available, the Magic have to be heavily favored against a team that may wind up starting Will Solomon and Andrea Bargnani, right? Although Bargnani has put together a few solid games lately (15.8 points per game in his last 5 outings), Jason Kapono and Anthony Parker are very stoppable. With Calderon and O'Neal out, the Magic should win. Then again, the Rockets shouldn't have had much trouble against the Raptors on Saturday, and look what happened there. It's anyone's guess.
The Magic won't be at 100%, either. We knew that Mickael Pietrus would miss another month after breaking his right wrist, but from Kyle Hightower comes word that Keith Bogans was limited in yesterday's shootaround due to "an ongoing ankle ailment" and may be a late scratch. The smart money is on Stan Van Gundy to start Courtney Lee in Bogans' place if he's unable to go, but he could pull a fast one and start J.J. Redick instead. Such a move would keep Lee with the second unit, which thrives on his energy and hustle plays (not to mention jump shot). And Redick can succeed against the Raptors since none of their perimeter players is in any position to exploit him defensively. Redick got his first career start in these teams' first meeting this season, so it wouldn't be an unprecedented move. Just saying.
It's a Sunday matinee, with a 12:30 tip-time. Go Magic.