Raptors vs Magic - Gameday Preview: Raps Look to Keep Pace in East

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors head south to face the Orlando Magic this evening in the first of a back-to-back.

With 10 games left in their NBA season, and a record of 41 and 31, can the Toronto Raptors win seven of their final 10 to set a franchise-high record for victories?

Considering their final schedule and upcoming games against the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets, it's likely a tough go but I'm not sure it even matters.  42 wins or 50 wins, the win total come season's end is more important in terms of final standings, than breaking any franchise records.

In fact, I'm not even sure wins matter that much on the standings front.  The Raptors have looked alternatively good, and bad against the Bulls, the Nets and Wizards and to me, it's more important that the team shows some progress overall as it heads to the post-season.

It's been the inverse of late as while they've won some of the matches they've been involved in, most haven't exactly been a showcase for top-notch basketball.  Like March Madness, you want your team to be peaking as it enters the post-season, not stumbling to the finish line.

In light of that, a matchup this evening against the 21 and 52 Orlando Magic bodes well as a confidence booster.

Here are our three keys:

1)  Get back to playing defence. Remember the Toronto Raptors team that regularly held opponents to under 100 points, was a top team in terms defensive efficiency, and one that prided itself at getting stop at key moments, rather than having to be bailed out with shot making?  Barely?  The last two weeks has shown almost none of that club so tonight I'm hoping the team quits playing down to its level of competition, and locks in at both ends.  Playing a club that's as offensively challenged as the Orlando Magic should help (near the bottom of the league in offensive efficiency) but that's what we thought in matches versus the Boston Celtics so...

2)  Healthy bodies. One of the factors that's likely hampering the Raptors' defensive play is the healthy of its top stoppers.  We know about Patrick Patterson, who's been a nice boost on D this season, but having a less than completely mobile Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry is likely also factoring into the equation.  Considering their opponent today and the fact that the playoff spot has been clinches, I say rest any and all.  Hell, start Dwight Buycks and Landry Fields if need be!

3)  Bench play. Speaking of Fields and Buycks, I'd like to see Toronto's bench get a little more involved in these final games.  It's true that teams usually shrink their benches come playoff time, but you never know when you need that X-Factor to come in and play the role of Gary Neal or Roger Mason Jr.  Steve Novak looks like the best such candidate for me so maybe today, give Amir a rest and use Novak at the 4 in smaller lineups.  The Magic aren't a very good rebounding team so perhaps this is the time to do some experimenting to ensure everyone's ready come postseason.

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