The All-Star break is coming at just the right time for the ailing Toronto Raptors, who will be short-handed again when it faces the visiting Orlando Magic on Tuesday.
Toronto has won four of its past five games but likely will be without three rotation players against the Magic. Gary Trent Jr. (left calf strain) and Precious Achiuwa (right ankle sprain) are listed as questionable, while O.G. Anunoby will miss his ninth straight game due to a sprained wrist.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse also could be unavailable after being away from the team since Saturday for personal reasons. Assistant coach Adrian Griffin served in Nurse’s place Sunday, when Toronto held on for a 119-118 win over the visiting Detroit Pistons.
Fred VanVleet scored 35 points in the victory, while Pascal Siakam continued to impress with 28 points.
Siakam is averaging 29.8 points in his past four games and has been a key part of the Raptors’ recent surge. The seven-year pro was added to the All-Star Game roster last week as an injury replacement.
After watching him in action over the weekend, Detroit coach Dwane Casey was baffled at Siakam’s original omission as an All-Star reserve.
“He deserved it,” Casey said. “I don’t know what the other crazy coaches, 14 coaches, 13 coaches, whatever it is, were thinking about. He should have been on the first ballot.”
Toronto has also received a spark from 7-foot-1 center Jakob Poeltl, who was acquired from the San Antonio Spurs at last week’s trade deadline.
Poeltl had six points and five rebounds in 25 minutes against Detroit and has already made a positive impact on the defensive end.
“It’s certainly a luxury to have someone with this size, and he’s just such a smart, intelligent player,” Griffin said. “He’s only been with us for a couple of days, and he’s already picked up a lot of our concepts. So he’s only going to get better.”
Orlando will be playing for the third time in four nights and on the second night of a back-to-back after beating the host Chicago Bulls 100-91 on Monday.
Paolo Banchero scored 22 points while Franz Wagner and Markelle Fultz added 18 apiece for the Magic, who won for the fourth time in six games.
“I think we’re just playing for something,” Wagner said. “We’re not far out from playing in the play-in game, so every game matters for us. That’s how we need to approach every game.”
Fultz contributed 10 rebounds and nine assists against Chicago and is averaging 16.1 points on 54.5 percent shooting in seven games this month.
“He’s the ultimate team guy,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “He trusts them, and they trust him. He slows the game down enough that it allows guys to find reads and the right reads.”
Orlando guard Cole Anthony missed the Monday contest due to right wrist soreness, and he is listed as day-to-day.
The Magic added depth in its frontcourt by signing free agent Goga Bitadze on Monday. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 21 games with the Indiana Pacers this season, leaving his career averages at 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 170 games (all for Indiana) across four seasons.