|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|November 1st, 2009|
|Air Canada Centre|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Jose Calderon|
|J.J. Redick||SG||DeMar DeRozan|
|Matt Barnes||SF||Hedo Turkoglu|
|Ryan Anderson||PF||Chris Bosh|
|Dwight Howard||C||Andrea Bargnani|
The Orlando Magic aim to improve their record to 3-0 this afternoon when they take on the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. The chief storyline is Hedo Turkoglu's first game against the Magic since they sent him to Toronto in a sign-and-trade deal, after making him an "unsatisfactory" offer in free agency. And, as always, the Toronto crowd will boo Vince Carter, the former Raptor who forced the team to trade him in 2004, vociferously. That is, of course, assuming Carter plays at all. He sprained his left ankle in the midst of a vintage Carter performance against his other former team, the New Jersey Nets, on Friday night and is a game-time decision today. It's worth noting that, although Carter has respectable career averages against the Raptors, he's less than a year removed from a game in which he shot 0-of-13 and scored 3 points.
The Raps' season has been pretty uneven. They opened it with a surprising win over the juggernaut Cleveland Cavaliers, but surprisingly dropped their next game to the bottom-feeding Memphis Grizzlies. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star believes the two are related, that the Raptors felt complacent after knocking off the Cavs, so the Grizzlies caught them off guard. Matt Steinmetz of NBA FanHouse wonders if Turkoglu's need to handle the ball is throwing the usually surehanded point guard Jose Calderon off his game.
Worse still for the Raptors is the fat that they yielded a combined 49 points on 19-of-29 shooting to the Grizzlies' power forward/center tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. And, wouldn't you know it, the Magic's leading scorers are center Dwight Howard (20.5 points per game) and power forward Ryan Anderson (16). If the big-man Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, Reggie Evans, and Rasho Nesterovic can't hold down Toronto's interior defense, the Raptors might be in for a long night.
It is possible for them to win if Howard pops off, though. He scored 39 points in a Magic loss in January because the Raptors shot impressively well from the field and committed few turnovers. And Bosh, a perennial All-Star already, always seems to elevate his game against the Magic. In short, this game should be a doozy.
UPDATE: Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Magic have sent starting small forward Mickael Pietrus home "with flu-like symptoms." He'll miss today's game as well as Tuesday's contest in Detroit. Matt Barnes, who's opened the year shooting 3-of-12, with 8 points in 42 minutes, will start in Pietrus' place. Still no word on whether or not Vince Carter'll be able to play. J.J. Redick is ready to take over at shooting guard if needed.
UPDATE 2: Carter is indeed a late scratch, leaving the Magic with only Redick at shooting guard and Barnes at small forward. Stan Van Gundy will have to play unconventionally, with only 2 point guards and 2 bigs comprising his bench. Expect to see some very strange lineups, which may include Nelson at shooting guard with either Jason Williams or Anthony Johnson at the point, or Ryan Anderson moving down to small forward.