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Pregame Notebook: Player of the week and the banged up Raptors

Nikola Vucevic won player of the week last week, and the Magic could catch a break against a banged up Raptors team.

NBA: New York Knicks at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Eastern Conference Player of the Week

After one of his best weeks as a professional, Orlando Magic big man Nikola Vucevic’s strong play was recognized on Monday when he was named player of the week in the Eastern Conference.

Over the course of four games, Vucevic averaged 27.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and four assists per game, while shooting 58.1 percent from the field, and 47.1 percent from three. Vucevic’s play helped the Magic to a 3-1 record that included wins over the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks.

This is the first time since March 24-30th, 2014, that a Magic play was recognized with the award. That week it was also Vucevic who was recognized for his stellar play.

During his stretch of strong play, Vucevic became the first Magic player since Dwight Howard in 2008 to have three consecutive games of at least 28 points and 10 rebounds.

It comes as no surprise that Vucevic is getting recognition for his strong play, and has been carrying the Magic throughout their last nine games. Most of the sets the Magic run offensively run through Vucevic, and coach Steve Clifford had said time and time again that Vucevic is a focal part of the offense, even going as far as to say he’s a point guard playing in a five mans body.

His teammates have also noticed his recent stretch.

“I was thinking about it last night,” said Evan Fournier, one of Vucevic’s closest friends on the team when asked if it was the best he’s seen him play. “I mean, my first year here, he was dominating. Even with Scott [Skiles] he was playing really, really well. He started kind of slow, but finished extremely well. It’s good to see him play like that. He’s had a rough couple of years and so now I feel that he’s playing with a lot of confidence and it’s good to see him like that.”

Fournier, who’s locker is right next to Vucevic’s joked that no one should tell him he’s playing so well so his head wouldn’t get too big.

Jonathan Isaac, who’s beginning to get things going himself, also raved about the stretch the Magic’s starting center has put together.

“Vooch is just so skilled,” said Isaac. “That’s just what it comes down to. You really can’t do anything with him. The only thing that’s going to stop him is if he’s missing shots. He’s so skilled that he can get to where he wants to on the floor. He gets his hand on a hook, or a floater it’s ridiculous.”

The Magic go as Vucevic goes, and recently it’s been very good. He’s put up huge numbers, and has gotten the recognition to go along with it.

Banged up Raptors

Throughout the course of an 82 game season, you’re going to catch breaks.

For the Magic, that could be Tuesday night against the Toronto Raptors. Toronto, the Eastern Conference’s best team right now, will be without three key wing players, OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles and Norman Powell. They could also be without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who is a game-time decision.

Winners of seven of their last nine, the Magic have been playing some of their best basketball in recent years. That stretch, however, has been against some lesser competition, and Tuesday night begins a much tougher stretch, including a five game West Coast road trip that includes games against the Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers.

Catching the Raptors short handed, could be fortuitous for the Magic as they look to carry their momentum out on the road.

If the Magic were able to knock off Toronto, they’d hold wins against the three teams that most predicted would finish in the top-three in the Eastern Conference: Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia.

If Lowry is unable to go, Fred VanVleet will get the start in his place, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.

Sometimes you have to catch teams at the right time, and that could be Tuesday for the Magic against a banged up Raptors bunch.