This isn’t a first or anything, but it is worth noting that tonight’s Raptors vs. Magic game features two teams in two very different emotional states. Both are staring down the end of the regular season, but one is doing so from high upon their perch in the East, and the other... is in ninth place.
For the past six seasons, the Orlando Magic had no hope of making the playoffs. Indeed, the way their roster was constructed, they had no hope of even topping 35 wins. Yet, here we are in 2019, year seven of their rebuild, and there’s the possibility that they’ll clear 40 wins and secure a spot in the post-season. Heading into tonight’s game, the Magic are 38-39 and just one half-game behind the Miami Heat for the eighth and final spot. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Magic somehow snake their way in there, what with former Raptor Terrence Ross finding his groove in Orlando and Nikola Vucevic finally getting some All-Star shine. They’re a weird mismatched (and injury-plagued) team that hasn’t figured it all out yet — but do we really need to see the Heat again in the post-season? Come on.
As Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game, tonight’s game will give Toronto an opportunity to match intensity with a squad fighting for its collective basketball life. Spending the past week beating the Bulls and Knicks has meant easy wins — Nurse emphasized he didn’t want to take anything away from anybody, but also: those teams stink — and it has put Toronto in low gear. On top of that, the Raptors want to prove to themselves they can handle the Magic, having been killed already twice by them and eking out just one buzzer-beating win. The results don’t really matter to the Raptors, but it would be nice to go toe-to-toe with a desperate team and calmly put them in their place with superior talent and execution. (And if the Magic somehow make it into seventh, it would be even nicer.)
In any case, our guy Joel Stephens has your full Raptors-Magic preview here from this morning. Below are the updated game details. Now, let’s watch.
Where to Watch:
Toronto — Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Orlando — D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic
Toronto — Patrick McCaw (out — thumb), OG Anunoby (questionable — concussion-like symptoms)
Orlando — Mo Bamba (out — left leg), Markelle Fultz (out — shoulder rehab), Timofey Mozgov (out — knee surgery), Isaiah Briscoe (out — right knee)