It’s a Floridian matchup as the Toronto Raptors (22-34) welcome the Orlando Magic (18-37) to Amalie Arena Friday night. Toronto, which has been displaced to the Sunshine State due to the pandemic, is a slight online sport betting favorite by 2½-points (-135 on moneyline) and will look to sweep the season series with its third win.
Both teams, like half of the league, are shuffling players due to injury and rest. Toronto gets G Fred VanVleet back but will rest most of its regular starters like F Pascal Siakam and G Kyle Lowry. Still, Toronto should win this one.
Magic: The Future Is Now
The Magic are 11 games into “Full Tank Mode” following a trade deadline where they dealt cornerstones C Nikola Vucevic and F Aaron Gordon among others. So far so good as Orlando has dropped eight of its 11 games while getting a good look at their prospects.
F Chuma Okeke has emerged as a decent, albeit streaky, shooter and is averaging 12.7 points in 10 games as a starter. F/C Mohamed Bamba has likewise been flashing his shooting stroke and has hit an average of three 3-pointers a game at a whopping 70.6% rate in his last four full games.
G R.J. Hampton, the prized acquisition from the Gordon trade, has shown flashes like his career night against his former team, the Nuggets.
Despite their efforts, the Magic still rank as the second-worst offense in the NBA and the worst in terms of effective field goal percent (EFG%). It’s good to see the young bucks get some burn, but it’s empty calories fit for DFS but not much else.
Raptors: Tagging In, Tagging Out
Joining the Magic as an unlikely team in the “tank wars” are the Raptors. Sure, they just beat the Spurs as +190 underdogs but that’s just their second win in six games. Toronto was hit by the injury bug beginning in March when they managed to win one game.
The team is 4-4 in April but still 12 games below .500, its worst mark since 2013. Toronto has struggled offensively and has the fifth-worst EFG% since the All-Star break. The defense has generally held steady, but the team’s lack of size has negated a lot of it.
Toronto is giving up the most second-chance points and is last in rebounding. The recent signing of F/C Khem Birch bolsters the middle at least. But having the main starters tagging in and out either means this team is quietly tanking or sneakily gearing up for a playoff run.
Khem Birch vs. Hawks:
25 MINS | 13 PTS | 6 REB | 2 STL | 1 BLK pic.twitter.com/uGtnkxxpPR
Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) April 14, 2021
The Raptors are only one game back of Chicago for the 10th playoff spot. “So you’re saying there’s a chance?” Yes, who knows what Nick Nurse is cooking up but Toronto can win just enough games to get into 10th and it’s anyone’s guess what happens next.
Neither team here inspires much confidence on the NBA betting lines, but let’s go with the Raptors. The team will be without four of its main players, but it will still have more offense than the Magic.
The addition of Birch and F Freddie Gillespie has also solidified the Raptors’ interior. They combined for 14 boards on Wednesday as the team posted a season-high 54 rebounds against the Spurs.
The Magic have also been subpar at rebounding since trading away Nikola Vucevic and maybe the worst offensive team in the NBA. We could be in for an ugly game and the totals at under 212 are looking tempting, except that Orlando has a porous defense and Toronto can get hot on occasion.
High-scoring or not, the Raptors should beat the Magic here. It won’t look good, but they’ll come out on top.