Sunday evening will be a game of two teams heading in opposite directions. The Raptors have clinched the number one seed and await to discover who their opening round opponent will be. With three games left the Raptors could conclude the season with 60 wins as well. Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic have a chance to finish at the bottom of the conference, as they currently sit 14th, 1.5 games better than the Atlanta Hawks.
Raptor fans also see any matchup against the Magic as a family reunion. It’s the return of Terrence Ross and Bismack Biyombo, two players that at one point in their careers were fan favourites in Toronto. The Magic have listed Ross (knee) as probable for the matchup tonight. The guard has been out since November 29 due to a sprained MCL.
In the two earlier games this season, the Raptors defeated the Magic 117-104 and 93-86. The latter game, played back on March 20, the Magic kept it close in the first half before Toronto pulled away in the third quarter. In that contest, the Raptors played without DeMar DeRozan the entire game and fought back in the fourth to get the win. Of course, even in the February 28 game, the Raptors waited in the fourth to put the Magic away.
Instead of worrying about the W, let’s just sit back, and enjoy some Sunday evening basketball — followed by some friendly hugs, smiles and laughs between the Raptors and their former teammates.
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One, 6:00pm EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Orlando – D.J. Augustin, Wesley Iwundu, Mario Hezonja, Aaron Gordon, Niokla Vucevic
Toronto – None
Orlando – Terrence Ross (Probable – Knee), Aaaron Gordon (Probable – Calf), Nikola Vucevic (Probable – back), Evan Fournier (OUT – Knee), Jonathan Simmons (OUT – Wrist), Jonathan Isaac (OUT – Ankle)
Mix and Match
With three games remaining, and all of them pretty much meaningless (at least to the Raptors), they have options to play around with. Head coach Dwane Casey can use these final games to play with different lineups that we haven’t seen before or give some guys extra minutes. Then again, Casey might choose to stick with his regular rotation and lineups so the chemistry isn’t thrown off heading into the playoffs. It just wouldn’t be a bad idea to see some of the young guys get extra minutes alongside Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
There’s not much you can play around with in the frontcourt as it’s best to keep Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka together, and have Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, and Lucas Nogeueira stay as a group.
A little more of C.J. Miles, or Delon Wright with the two stars wouldn’t be a bad idea. This may also be an opportunity to play Norman Powell more than 10 minutes. And I didn’t forget Fred VanVleet — he’s guaranteed as the sixth man in the playoffs, no matter what.
Don’t Wait Until the Fourth
As mentioned earlier, in the two match-ups this season the Raptors waited until the fourth quarter to turn it up a few gears. In those two games, the Raptors outscored the Magic a combined 52-25 in the final quarter.
It’s easy to get lazy at this point in the season, but it’ll be easier on everyone’s health if the Raptors get out to a huge lead early. I doubt in these games Casey will play the starters late in a close game, but an early fast start will ease any decision making if it ever got to that point. Starters need to come out strong in the first and let the bench unit takeover most of the minutes late.
Bismack Finger Wag
There’s not much about this game to talk about, so I ask the Raptors players to go out there and get blocked a couple times by Bismack Biyombo. For old times sake, let’s see the good ol’ finger wag after a block.
And now, for good times, here’s Biyombo’s defensive highlights from 2016: