If you are not aware, the Raptors are in London this week and will take on the Magic at The O2 Arena at 3pm EST this afternoon. Our James Plowright is in London and here's some coverage from practice yesterday.
Some things to consider for this game:
1. Playoff seeding
We're nearing or at the mathematical halfway point for most teams, so it's time to start taking a peek at the standings once in awhile. The Raptors, at 24-15, are in second place in the East. While the Bulls and Hawks are just a game back, Toronto is starting to create a bit of space between themselves and the teams who figure to be fighting for the seventh and eighth seeds. The Magic are one of those teams. At 20-18, they're currently the eighth seed. As Dwane Casey mentioned last week, one bad week can send you tumbling down the standings in this year's tightly bunched Eastern Conference. The Raptors have an extended home stand after today's game, so this could be the time to really create some space in the standings and think about perhaps locking down that second seed. After what happened the last few seasons, it's one round at a time for this team, but avoiding Cleveland in round two would be the optimal path to any deep playoff run.
2. Revenge game
The Magic handed the Raptors their first loss of the season back in November. So that might still be on the mind of the Raptors. It's always fun to watch the matchup between Jonas Valanciunas and Nikola Vucevic, who is one of the most skilled big men in the league. Another player to keep an eye on is Aaron Gordon, who missed most of his rookie season due to injury, but has seen his minutes go up in the last two games, in which he's scored 14 and 10 points respectively. Gordon can be a very disruptive player when he is on the floor, exactly the type of guy who can throw the Raptors off their typical rhythm.
3. A foreign affair
The Raptors played in London back in 2011 (two games against the New Jersey Nets), so maybe the London crowd might be partial to Toronto, or they simply want to watch some exciting basketball and will be the type of foreign crowd that cheers for everything. Or the flow of the game will dictate who they end up cheering for. No, this is not the Super Bowl, but games played at a neutral location is always fun just to see the difference in how the crowd reacts.
Where to watch: 3:00 pm EST, Sportsnet