The tank is on for the Toronto Raptors.
If you've been looking at the NBA's reverse standings lately — and it seems like the Raptors have been — Friday night's game against the Orlando Magic is a big one. The Magic sit just three games up on Toronto in the lottery standings with the fourth-best odds of winning the lottery and a 48.1% chance of landing a top-four pick.
It appears Toronto is pulling out all the stops to lose this one, resting Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam, while listing Gary Trent Jr., DeAndre' Bembry, and Jalen Harris as doubtful with various injuries. And yet the Magic are so dreadful this season that the Raptors are still 1.5-point favourites on Friday morning, according to Covers.
The Magic did, however, pull off an upset of the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night. It both opened the door even wider for Toronto to sneak into the play-in picture or move up the lottery standings a little more. Unfortunately for the tankers, Toronto knocked off the San Antonio Spurs on the same night and couldn't take advantage of the lottery shift.
If the Raptors find a way to win on Friday, it'll likely come with another massive performance from Fred VanVleet. Toronto's 27-year-old guard is set to return to the court after a two-week absence with a left hip injury. The last time VanVleet saw the Magic he set a franchise record with 54 points. This time, with Lowry, Siakam, Anunoby, and Trent Jr. all likely out, VanVleet might be gunning for that record once again.