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The Orlando Magic centre Dwight Howard take on the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE (Sam Sharpe/US PRESSWIRE)
The Orlando Magic centre Dwight Howard take on the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE (Sam Sharpe/US PRESSWIRE)

Slumping Raptors ready to face red-hot Magic Add to ...

The rumors of Dwight Howard’s imminent departure do not appear to have phased the Orlando Magic through the first week. The Magic have won three of their first four games and turned in their best performance yet on Friday with a 100-79 drubbing of the Charlotte Bobcats. Howard has been a monster on the glass, averaging 17.5 rebounds, but it is the play of leading scorer Ryan Anderson that has really sparked Orlando lately. Anderson will try to throw up his third straight 20-plus point game when the Magic host the Toronto Raptors. Howard will be stretched defensively while guarding Raptors center Andrea Bargnani, who likes to drift out toward the 3-point line. Bargnani scored 30 points on Friday but could not drag his team to a win over the Dallas Mavericks. Toronto has dropped back-to-back games since opening the season with a win at Cleveland.

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ABOUT THE RAPTORS (1-2): New head coach Dwane Casey, who served as a top assistant with the Dallas Mavericks last season and was credited with that team’s defensive turnaround, has been trying to instill the same defensive intensity in his new team. Toronto has yet to allow an opponent to reach 100 points but the offense has struggled, averaging 85.5 points in its two losses. The Raptors have been good at sharing the ball, with point guard Jose Calderon averaging eight assists.

ABOUT THE MAGIC (3-1): Howard and the rest of his team will have to answer questions about his future until he signs an extension or gets traded. Orlando is trying everything it can to prove to Howard that it has what it takes to be a perennial contender, with Anderson’s emergence being the latest piece. The fourth-year forward is starting next to Howard in the frontcourt and has started to draw double teams away from his All-NBA teammate.

BUZZER BEATERS:

1. Calderon needs eight assists to reach 3,000 for his career.

2. Magic PG Jameer Nelson sat out Friday with neck spasms but is expected to play Sunday.

3. Toronto took two of the three meetings last season.

PREDICTION: Magic 92, Raptors 84.

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