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Raptors vs Magic - Game-Day Thread: Nicholson Makes First Homecoming

The Toronto Raptors will look to take advantage of an early start at home against the 3 and 5 Orlando Magic.

John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

Orlando Magic vs Toronto Raptors
November 18, 2012
Sportsnet - 1:00 PM EST

Thought we'd do a bit of a combo deal here with our "Three in the Key" used to kick off today's liveblog.

The Toronto Raptors head into today's matchup with the Orlando Magic fresh off of a serious beating at the hands of the Boston Celtics Saturday afternoon.

The shorthanded Raptors will no doubt be tired - especially considering the week they have had prior to yesterday's game - but they will have to fight through it against an Orlando Magic club that has gotten off to a somewhat surprising start this season.

The Magic are coming off of a victory on friday night against the Detroit Pistons. In that game the Magic saw all five of their starters score in double figures, which is something that this team must do on a nightly basis without a star to carry their scoring load. The Magic are now 3 and 5 on the season and look much better than most people thought they would after trading away franchise cornerstone Dwight Howard to the Lakers.

Based on how the Magic have fared thus far this season, it is clear this game will not be a cakewalk for the Raptors. This will be a tough but, winnable game which is key because this team needs a win in the worst way right now.

As well, this will be a big game for the Magic's Andrew Nicholson, making his first NBA homecoming of sorts.

As per usual, here are the three keys to the game for the Raptors:

1) DeRozan or Bargnani: Without Lowry and Anderson in the lineup as primary and secondary scorers, this team needs someone to step up and cary the scoring load. When that doesn't happen - like yesterday for example - the team falls apart and simply cannot muster up enough scoring to win, or compete really, in any game.

As we saw against the Jazz, if one of these guys steps up, then the Raptors have a shot at winning the game. But again, that was with DeRozan absolutely taking over and they still lost. The Magic though, aren't quite the calibur of the Utah Jazz, so it is possible, if one of Toronto scorers can get hot, that the Raptors can steal one against Big Baby and Co.

2) Keep Big Baby in check: With the departure of Dwight Howard in the offseason, the Magic have had to rely on a multitude of different players to pick up the scoring slack. So far, a couple players have answered the call and one of them has been Glen "Big Baby" Davis.

Davis is third on the team in scoring with 15.6 points per game and has really been a focal point of the offence. His ability to play inside out will likely present a threat for the Raptors and it will be curcial for them to keep him in check. This may mean mixing up the defences between zone and man as well as the defensive matchups. By doing so, the Dinos may be able to throw Davis - who isn't the headiest of players - off of his game and help the team secure a victory.

3) Fight Through Fatigue: This has clearly been a tough stretch of basketball for the Toronto Raptors, especially when you consider how short their bench has been for a good majority of the season. Having said that, the club cannot use that as an excuse, and they must fight through the fatigue if they are going to come away with a very gettable win against the Magic.

We might even see Casey use a longer bench, with guys like Terrence Ross and Ed Davis coming off of solid games after seeing extended minutes in Boston. Or, perhaps Valanciunas will see some extended minutes - not because the matchups would be particularly favourable, but simply because he has some of the freshest legs on the team.

Hopefully, for the Raptors' sake, they can channel some of that energy they had in Indiana on Tuesday because they will certainly need it today against Orlando.

UPDATE - No JJ Redick today for the Magic, something that we touch on in the first of hopefully what is a series of pre-game chats between myself and Scott Campsall, who's at the match via Media Access: