Game Preview: Magic at Raptors

The Magic play their second road game in as many nights as they travel north of the border to take on the young, talented Toronto Raptors.

Orlando Magic vs. Toronto Raptors

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Records: Orlando- 34-21, 1st place in the Southeast division; Toronto- 28-23, 2nd place in the Atlantic division. Orlando on the road- 20-10; Toronto at home- 15-11

Line: Raptors by 3.5

This is the second of three meetings between the two clubs, with the first meeting going to Orlando, 105-96 back in November. The Magic hold a 24-20 lead in the all time series.

Toronto is led by All-Star forward Chris Bosh, who averages 22.5 ppg. and 9.2 rebounds. Point guard Jose Calderon sets up the offense, as he averages 12.9 ppg, and nearly 9 assists per contest. The Raptors shooters include former first overall pick (2006) Andrea Bargnani, who averages better than 10 ppg., and Anthony Parker, who is a deadly outside shooter. Small forward Jamario Moon can jump out of the building, as he fills in with 8.2 ppg., and 6.1 rebounds.

The Raptors depth includes speedy, yet often injured point guard T.J. Ford, two-time defending three-point champion Jason Kapono, all-around scorers Carlos Delfino and Joey Graham, and big men Kris Humphries and Rasho Nesterovic.

Statistically speaking
The Raptors rank 13th in the league in points scored (99.0 ppg.), 7th in field goal percentage (46.17%), 1st in three point shooting (42%), 2nd in free throw percentage (81.32%), 7th in adjusted FG% (51%), 13th in field goal percentage allowed (45.18%), 7th in opponents ppg. (95.2), 26th in opponents three point shooting (37%), 20th in steals (7.1/gm.), 26th in blocked shots (3.9/gm.), 2nd in turnovers (11.2/gm.), 28th in rebounding (40.2/gm.), and 6th in assists (23.1/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up: 6th scoring (104.0 ppg.), 5th FG % (46.91%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 9th three point shooting (37%), 23rd FT% (72.5%), 11th FG% allowed (45.08%), 20th opponents scoring (100.7 ppg.), 19th opponents three point shooting (36%), 27th steals (6.3/gm.), 22nd in blocked shots (4.4/gm.), 16th turnovers (14.3/gm.), 11th rebounding (42.4/gm.), and 22nd in assists (20.1/gm.).

Best matchup for Toronto: Chris Bosh vs. Rashard Lewis- Bosh is a tough matchup for anyone, and he will push Lewis around down low. If Orlando opts to cover him with Dwight Howard, Bosh will simply take Howard outside and either shoot an 18 foot jumper, or beat him off the dribble. Bosh scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first meeting against Orlando this year.

Best matchup for Orlando: Dwight Howard vs. Andrea Bargnani- Bargnani's game is finesse, and Howard eats those types of guys for dinner. Toronto will have to send double and triple teams at Dwight to keep him from having a huge night. Howard has averaged a double-double over the last two years against the Raptors.

Keys to a Magic victory:
1. Guard the three-point line. Toronto leads the NBA in three-point efficiency, and the Magic defenders must stay home on those fine outside shooters that Toronto features.

2. Attack the rim. If Toronto has one weakness, it's defense inside the paint. The Magic must continually attack the basket against a team that's ranked 26th in blocked shots.

3. Crash the boards. The Magic play best when their guards and forwards are rebounding. Toronto is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, and Orlando can take advantage of them in second-chance opportunities.
Final thoughts: Orlando has a great opportunity to begin the second half of the year by winning twice on the road. The tougher of the two tasks was completed Tuesday night in Detroit, and the Magic need to be greedy and not settle for a split. If Orlando can stay home on the shooters and out-physical the smallish, finesse team from north of the border, they should head back to the Magic Kingdom with 21 road victories, more than anyone in the NBA.

For our gamblers out there: Orlando shot lights out against a tough Detroit team, and those things tend to even out. I like Toronto giving the three and a half.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of, and a regular syndicated contributor to, Sirius Radio, MySpace Sports and Charlie is also a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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